Liveblog: Belgian winners, Delft car up in flames

| Redactie

CLOSED (21/10/2019) Solar Team Twente is currently in Australia, where they competed in the World Solar Challenge, a race of over 3000 kilometres from Darwin to Adelaide. In this liveblog, we will keep you up-to-date with the latest news Down Under.

Photo by: Jerome Wassenaar
21/10, 13.27 | Liveblog closed, Twente wins Promotional Award

The World Solar Challenge has been finished for some time now. Twente was in the lead for three days, when their adventure came to an abrupt end due to a strong gust of wind. The solar car still crossed the finish line in Adelaide, to soften the disappointing result and to conclude the race well for the team. One more thing. Twente did win one prize: the Promotional Award. With this our liveblog also comes to an end.

To really conclude the race, a nice video of Solar Team Twente with some highlights of the Challenge, and the finish in Adelaide. 

18/10, 12:15 | Finish

Out of the race, but past the finish line. Solar Team Twente wasn't able to complete the World Solar Challenge, but did to travel to Adelaide to drive their solar car Red E past the finish line.

17/10, 10:08 | Belgian winners, Delft car up in flames

The Agoria Solar Team from Belgium won the World Solar Challenge today, before the Tokai University Solar Team (Japan) and the Michigan Solar Car (United States).

What happened to Delft, you might ask? They were in the lead, right? Their solar car caught fire and burned down completely. The driver got out safely.  

And this is what's left of their NunaX.

16/10, 16:15 | Victor van der Chijs hails Solar Team Twente as 'moral winner'

Victor van der Chijs, President of the Executive Board, was informed of the crash early this morning. ‘Around three o'clock in the night my phone started shaking incessantly. I don't normally do it, but I decided to take a look and saw the bad news. After that I couldn’t sleep anymore. You immediately start looking for more information, with the main question: is everyone safe? After consulting with the back office in Enschede, I was happy to hear that everyone was safe. When I saw the raw footage of the crash and the aftermath later that morning, and I saw everyone in the team was so devastated, I got tears in my eyes. It is extremely sad for them.’

Van der Chijs is mainly proud of the team. ‘I think they are the moral winners of this race. They immediately took the lead and did not let it go for three days. The fact that they crashed is certainly not due to the capacities of the team. I would call the accident an Act of God. There's nothing you can do about it. I'm not really a motorsport enthusiast, but when I look at Max Verstappen, I can see that the difference between success and failure is very small. The same applies to the Solar Team.’

The President of the Executive Board spoke with the team this afternoon (Dutch time). ‘There is one thing that I certainly did not want to do: jumping into it. The team works with strict protocols. I don’t want to interfere as the ‘’boss of the university’’. When everything was a bit more quiet, it was time for me to contact the team and tell them that we sympathize and are proud of the team's performance.’

The result has no influence on whether or not the Twente team will participate in 2021, says Van der Chijs. ‘Certainly not in a direct sense. And actually that question does not really concern me at the moment. It is a consideration that we make every edition. What concerns me now is the current team. The solar car is their baby. We now have to give them time and peace. The business side will come later.’

We are relieved that all team members appear unscathed. This must be such a disappointment for the team that worked relentlessly to build the best solar car ever. #SolarTeamTwente was in pole position for the 4th consecutive day and well underway to win the #WorldSolarChallenge. https://t.co/gIZeGtsNM7

— Victor van der Chijs (@vvanderchijs) October 16, 2019
16/10, 12:31 | Reaction Solar Team Twente

Solar Team Twente was shocked after the accident, says team leader Annelies Dekker from Australia. ‘Because of the wind we were already more careful. Not long after departure, our solar car was pushed down the road by a gust of wind. Then the car spun and it flipped over. Our driver was taken directly to the hospital for a check-up. Fortunately, he’s okay.’

The team is not to blame for the accident, says Dekker. ‘We were already driving extra careful due to the strong wind. Such an extreme gust of wind that pushed us off the road was just bad luck. I don't know why Delft, which ran a few minutes behind us, did not get off the road. Like I said, it's bad luck for us. I don't think it's the car. The days before the accident, our car seemed even more stable on the road in the wind than the car of Delft. But nothing can be done about such an extreme gust of wind.’

According to Dekker, the car can still be repaired. ‘But we have decided not to continue with the race. Also for our own safety. Our team will go to Adelaide, with the solar car on the back of a truck. There we hope to drive the car over the finish line to end our adventure in a good way, as far as that goes. It remains to be seen if we can make it work.’

There is disappointment within the team, but also relief, says Dekker. ‘Relief, because everyone is unharmed. That is the most important thing for us. We are also proud that our team has been in the lead for three days. Yet there is also disbelief. We were first and all went very well. That is over in one fell swoop, and that sucks off course.’

16/10, 10:32 | Video of the crash and aftermath

16/10, 07:59 | Twente out of competition

Almost immediately after the start of racing day 4, a sudden heavy gust of wind blew Solar Team Twente off the road and out of the race. The driver came out unharmed, but the solar car is so severely damaged that continuing the race wasn't an option. 

It's a huge blow for Solar Team Twente. With just 865 kilometres left to go and still in the lead, things looked good for the students from Twente. Until the wind gust put a sudden and brutal end to Twente's participation in the World Solar Challenge. 'We are astonished of what just happened here, but thankful that we are all here together safe. An incident like this puts everything into a different perspective,' says team manager Annelies Dekker.

Picture by Jerome Wassenaar.

Also the Sonnenwagen of the German team of Aachen was blown off the track by a sudden wind gust. The organization of the World Solar Challenge has taken measurements to ensure the safety of the teams still competing in the challenge, by setting a temporary speed limit for all vehicles. The Vattenfall Solar Team from Delft is now in the lead.

15/10, 16:29 | Wind update

Solar Team Twente will have to deal with severe weather conditions (wind) tonight, according to posts on the social media of Twente and Delft. Just take a look at the video on the Twitter channel of the Vattenfall Solar team, and consider that Twente is only a few hundred meters away with their camp. We hope everything will be fine!

We put all the tents up but the wind got even stronger! Its gonna be a windy night!! Hope everyone in @solarteamtwente is okay! #bwsc19 pic.twitter.com/1sy38wGCvo

— Vattenfall Solar Team (@VattenfallTeam) October 15, 2019

We won't be able to provide you with our video today. Our internet availability is limited and due to the gusts of wind (70km/h!) we do not consider it safe for us to drive further along the route to find a better connection to upload it. Hopefully tomorrow we can make it work!

— Solar Team Twente (@solarteamtwente) October 15, 2019
15/10, 14:16 | Two pictures to sum up day three

Pictures by Jerome Wassenaar

15/10, 13:26 | Report from the outback: 'It was a thrilling day'

Solar Team Twente maintains the lead in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge after the third racing day. However, not without a struggle. ‘It was a thrilling day’, says Frances van Elburg, team member marketing, calling right from the Australian outback. ‘Theoretically we are still in first place, but geographically Delft is ahead. Their team drove a bit further to set up camp at a good location, which is allowed, but they have to wait tomorrow morning. I think we have a head start of about two or three minutes.’

The Solar Team faced tough circumstances on the third racing day. ‘So far it has been fantastic, maybe even too good – until today. This day, we had to deal with a lot of wind and sandstorms. It was as if we were driving against a wall of sand. Pretty scary stuff. Our driver in the solar car determined the appropriate speed. At one point, we even had to stand still for safety reasons.’

Van Elburg knows it will be a head-to-head race with Delft in the coming days. ‘We still need to race about a day and a half. Our strategy works well, so our motto is: stick to the plan. We are confident and aim for the victory. Yet safety is always paramount. I am very happy that everything worked out safely today.’

 15/10, 10:13 | Day three: Leading by 600 metres 

Solar Team Twente hasn't let go of its position and continues to lead the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. However, the competitors are not far behind. Only about 600 metres separate the Twente team from the Delft's Vattenfall Solar Team. The race organization suggests that we might see some changes on the leaderboard tomorrow. 

14/10, 12:05 | Day two: across the outback

Pictures by Jerome Wassenaar & Martina Ketelaar

14/10, 11:33 | Day two: faster than last edition

The organization of the World Solar Challenge reports that Solar Team Twente is 53 minutes ahead of the winning time of Delft in the last edition of the race in 2017.

14/10, 10:22 | Day two: Still in the lead

The second day of the World Solar Challenge is over and Solar Team Twente is still holding onto the first place. They are currently approximately 20 minutes ahead of the Vattenfall Solar Team from Delft who are closely behind.

 

13/10, 17:30 | Some pictures to sum up day one

Pictures by Jerome Wassenaar

13/10, 11:18 | In first place after day one

After one day of racing, Solar Team Twente is leading the World Solar Challenge, ahead of the Vattenfall Solar Team from Delft and newcomer Top Dutch Solar Racing from Groningen. 

 

After a fifth place in qualification yesterday, Solar Team Twente quickly overtook its competitors this morning, to arrive first at Control Stop 1 in Katherine after about 300 kilometres.