On Monday May 2nd through Saturday May 7th solar cars from across the country will race in the Formula Sun Grand Prix (FSGP). This event will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway of the famed Indy 500 race.
This track race is very different strategically than the other races that Solar Car races which are on public roads. In other races the car is surrounded by support vehicles, which at the bare minimum includes a chase car and a lead car. These cars move with the solar car and make it easier for the solar car to merge with normal cars on public roads (more on support vehicles in the caravan here). At the Indy track, teams do not have to worry about being hindered by the need to coordinate moves with chase and lead.
In order to qualify for the race, however, the solar car must first pass what is called “scrutineering,” which is a long process and part of the reason why the team will be there for a full week. The judges check that the cars follow regulations by carefully examining things like all of the bolts on the car, and the electrical components. Through dynamic tests the judges ensures that the car can maneuver correctly. The teams must complete slalom work, figure 8s, uturns, ect. Once the solar cars prove themselves (if they prove themselves) the competition begins.
The team is excited to race Quantum competitively for the first time at this event. “In the last two build cycles, we’ve actually finished the car in Australia. So having Quantum ready to race for Formula Sun Grand Prix is historic,” says Rachel Kramer, the project manager, when asked about the importance of FSGP for the team. Having Quantum race-ready 6 months before the World Solar Challenge as opposed to 6 days before will definitely give the team a competitive advantage since there will be time for extensive testing. The Forumula Sun Grand Prix is one of those opportunities where the team can see how the car performs so that improvements can be made in anticipation for the World Solar Challenge in October.
On Saturday, the last day of FSGP, UMsolar is hosting a trackside event. You’ll be able to meet the team, and watch the new 2011 vehicle, Quantum, race. While Quantum will be zooming around the track Saturday, Infinium, our last vehicle, will be on display so you can see it up close and personal. This event will be from 1-4 on Saturday. To RSVP, look for directions to the track, and for more general information about the event, visit this page. We hope to see you all there!
Photo: Last year before the American Solar Challenge, the team raced at the 2010 Formula Sun Grand Prix. It wasn’t at the Indy track, but it was still a lot of fun. Photo credit goes to Steve Durbin.