After an intense day of competition, the team sits neck and neck with Nuon for second place. We are currently camped out approximately 2 kilometers behind Nuon, though they ended the day shortly after 5:00 PM while we ended at exactly 5:00 PM. When we pulled off at our campsite, our lead vehicle was directly behind their chase vehicle. Tokai University remains in the lead, already having passed Glendambo. Barring any great misfortune, they will emerge as winners of the race. Our team is excited to be in direct competition with Nuon for second place, who have finished first in all of their four previous races. Never before has Michigan finished higher than third in the World Solar Challenge/Global Green Challenge.
The day started with both us and Nuon just north of Alice Springs. We arrived there shortly after 8:30 with Nuon close behind. A cable was left unplugged at the end of the control stop, which forced us to lose some time at the exit of the control stop. Shortly after leaving Alice Springs, one of our MPPTs malfunctioned and tripped the vehicle’s circuit breakers. While we were on the side of the road, Nuon passed us to take second place.
We spent the remainder of the morning pushing on towards Kulgera, and ran across many entries from the Eco Challenge class of the Global Green Challenge. These vehicles were seeking to maximize their fuel economy while competing across the outback, and were running slower than we were! While navigating through the pack of Eco Cars, we even had a chance to run alongside Ford Australia once again. In the midst of weaving through the Eco Cars, we pulled into Kulgera about 10 minutes behind Nuon.
After passing the border for South Australia, we began to make up ground on Nuon as they slowed their pace. As we approached both Nuon and Coober Pedy, we received word of an overturned semi just 30 km north of the town. Traffic was restricted to a fraction of one lane–in the shuffling surrounding this, we caught up directly behind Nuon, and were prepared to pass them. However, debris from the accident punctured one of our tires and forced us to pull over. Thanks to an amazing tire change in less than two minutes, we pulled into Coober Pedy three minutes after Nuon.
Leaving Coober Pedy, we continued to close the gap with Nuon. Had the race day not ended when it did, our pace at the time would have allowed us to pass Nuon. Instead, we are camped out tonight with 808 km left to go until the end of timing, and a great end to the challenge head-to-head versus Nuon.