Posted By RichC on September 17, 2006
The first day of racing for the World Solar Rally has the eleven university teams competing in an airport circuit race. The race included tight turns which posed a problem for the University of Minnesota team and their car, Borealis III. (see standings) The tight fast cornering gave the team tire trouble as they experienced three flat tires and decided to backoff a bit to protect the vehicle for the more important race days yet to come. One thing the team has learned so far is that they need to address how ‘the rubber meets the road.’ (see previous posts on the UMN team)
Circuit Race Results and Last Preparations
As a first disclaimer, too much happened today to capture it in a brief blog entry. To do proper justice, please address questions you have about the day’s events to Patrick O’Connor or Prof. Jeff Hammer. Contact information can be found on the left side-bar.
After a good night’s sleep in the dorms nearby, the team traveled back to Pingtung Airport to find Borealis III in the same good condition we left it the prior night. There was a buzz in the air and everyone was excited to finally do what we came to Taiwan to do: RACE! Typhoon Shanshan had cleared out the skies after a couple of windy days, and the morning was a beautiful start to the day.
Driving practice began shortly after our arrival. We were pleased with our laps and got both of the days drivers in the car to get acclimated to the airport circuit: long, flat straights with sharp turns at either end. Good fortune was not on our side in qualifying, however, as our driver blew a tire going around one of the hairpin-like turns. This, however, did not stop us from starting the race. We were competitive in the first heat, keeping up with the lead after a poor grid position, but again, lady luck did not swing our way, as yet another flat tire befouled our crew. We got back out on the track quickly, having lost only a lap so far. At one point, we got our lap back from the leader and eventual victor, Sky Ace TIGA of Ashiya University. However, yet another flat tire set us back. After each flat tire, the driver showed remarkable skill in piloting both himself and Borealis III to safety on wounded wheels.
Next came a decision that I am proud to say the team was mature enough to make. We were far enough behind the leader after the first heat, and we had shown that the tire performance was what limited the race for us (we were encouraging the driver to go faster because we had the array and battery power to do so). We decided that the risk was not worth the possible benefit of going back out on the track, and that we would prepare for the rally instead of jeopardizing our participation in the rally. The team then prepared Borealis III for the far more important event that begins tomorrow, including work on tires, adjustment of the motor, and cleaning of the car. While some team members were not busy due to our withdrawal, we started offering our services elsewhere to the underdogs and people that were having troubles. With some electrical help and debugging, the Iranian car, Persian Gazelle, was able to go out on the track and turn laps in the second heat. They sought help at first for a part, but we offered far more to help them run in the track event.
While the help was being given and Borealis III was off the course for the duration of the day, one of the cars of the host university overturned while cornering. Thankfully, the driver was safe and the car was able to continue. However, the car then rolled again while cornering too quickly in the first turn. This time, there was no canopy on the car, there was noticeable damage to many structures on the car, and the driver was escorted to the hospital after there was damage to his helmet. We have not yet received word on his condition, so we ask that you please keep him in your thoughts. As a show of what we presume to be perseverance, the same car then headed out on the track to finish racing in Heat 2, still without a canopy. Again, please keep the driver in your thoughts, as well thoughts of a safe journey the next three days.
We are excited for the rally to begin tomorrow. We are confident that the proper safety concerns have been taken by our team and that we will be ready for better luck to smile upon our team tomorrow (or at least we certainly hope so).
Going safe and going fast in Taiwan,
***See team blog.