Solar Team Eindhoven well out in front in Australia

The fourth day of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia has come to an end and Solar Team Eindhoven is clearly leading the Cruiser Class. Despite earlier transport problems and the limited window for testing on site, TU/e solar car Stella Vie is performing in the outback “far beyond expectations”. With some 900 kilometers to go, a third world title seems almost a dead cert for the team from Eindhoven - but this is no time for complacency.

The team has just made camp on Wednesday evening (Australian time - Wednesday morning here) at Coober Pedy, some 2,100 kilometers south of Darwin, their starting point on Sunday. Beatrix Bos of Solar Team Eindhoven (STE) looks back on the first four days with satisfaction: “We really didn’t expect it to go as well as this, and that right from the start we’d be leading by such a wide margin”.

Moreover, the competition they face in Australia is now manageable. Whereas STE had expected to find thirteen competitors on the starting line in Darwin, only five other cruisers are still driving through the outback, in addition to the Eindhoven team. As was to be expected, some teams did not make it through the trials that preceded the start. Then a Thai team forget to charge up their solar car the night before the start and had to concede defeat after only 20 kilometers. To cap it all, serious rival Sunswift dropped out due to technical problems.

The solar car belonging to STE’s other established rival, the solar team from Germany's Bochum, has been on Stella Vie’s heels for days. But the gap between the two in the Efficiency Class, which accounts for 80 percent of the final result, is now wide. Bos acknowledges that it will be difficult for others to overtake her team at this stage. But there’s absolutely no feeling of complacency, she is quick to point out. “We are staying focused. It only takes one thing to go wrong and you can be out of the challenge.”

The often unpredictable weather plays a critical role in their prospects, as she explains: “Last night we had heavy rains and such stormy weather that our tents were almost blown away. This morning it was still raining heavily. We had a moment of panic: will we even make it to Adelaide? You see, if we don’t get any more sunshine, we’ll only have the battery. Luckily, mid-morning the skies cleared completely and we had nothing but sunshine for the rest of the day’s racing.”

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