These were “a couple of tense weeks with serious setbacks,” says PR manager Marije Sesink on the phone as she looks back on recent events, “but we’re back on the road.” The unexpected damage that Solar car Stella Era suffered during shipment to Australia over a month ago was undoubtedly the most serious setback. For reasons still unknown, the transport box in which the car was shipped suffered damage, and as a consequence, so did Stella’s sloping ‘solar roof.’
With the help of an external partner, the team quickly managed to get hold of a new, custom-made solar panel and had it flown in. This new panel makes the roof of the car complete again, but the new panel is less efficient than the original one, Sesink says. “We tested it, and there is a small difference. Nevertheless, we have confidence in our car.”
The team still doesn’t know what went wrong with the box in which the solar car was transported, nor do they know when the damage occurred. “Much still remains unclear about this, external parties are now looking into it now. The team is looking forward.”
And ‘looking forward’ is increasingly starting to mean looking into the ‘very forseeable future.’ Tomorrow, Tuesday October the 8th, will be the day of the static scrutineering, during which the car will undergo a thorough review. This Saturday, it’s time for the dynamic scrutineering, which will also determine the starting position for the race.
Sesink says that the Eindhoven team has a clear motto: pushing the limits without crossing them. Because the team that drives the fastest round on the Hidden Valley circuit will start from pole position next Sunday. “That’s quite important because if you don’t start from pole position, you’ll run into many other teams on the first day already, and you can’t really determine your own racing speed in such a crowded field. We strive for a very fast hot lapwithout taking too much risk with the car. We tested on this circuit many times already, our drivers know the car through and through, and they have mastered the technique by now of driving it through the bends as fast as possible, for example.”
In order to test and optimize everything as effectively as possible, the team from Eindhoven also spent a fair amount of time racing on Gun Point Road - a stretch of public road in Darwin made available by the organization of the World Solar Challenge for training purposes. There, incidentally, Sesink and her team members mostly came across cars in the Challenger class (including those of their countrymen from Delft and Twente), whereas the TU/e team takes part in the Cruiser class for cars that were designed more for practicality. “We didn’t see that many other ‘Cruisers’ so far.”
But that will change quickly after the participating teams move to the aforementioned Hidden Valley circuit today. Here, at BWSC’s home base and the starting point of Sunday’s race, they will spend the rest of the week. The convoy from Eindhoven, which hopes to start from a good position, consists of eight vehicles.
During the race, the 26-strong team (including four drivers for Stella Era, see photo, right) will be accompanied by approximately thirteen guests - including alumni from previous teams, university representatives and a media team. The latter team will provide, among other things, a daily video update from ‘down under,’ which can be seen via Solar Team Eindhoven’s own online channels