Despite the rainfall and hard winds on this tumultuous day, the Nuon Solar Team has extended its lead in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. With a two-hour lead, the world championship title might be in sight. The students credit their compact design, strategy and teamwork as their winning factors. However, they are certainly not seeing it as a matter of course: “A lot can happen on the final racing day.”
After yesterday’s rain and wind, and tonight’s thunderstorm, day four in the Australian outback was tempestuous at best. Winds reaching up to 60 km per hour were the cause for some nerve-racking moments. Driver Emma Vercoulen explains: “It was quite an exercise to keep Nuna on the road. I had to avoid the puddles: scary and exciting at the same time!”
The Nuon Solar Team tempered their speed to guarantee their safety. Nonetheless, they were able to extend their lead. For this they credit their amazing strategy team. Every day, strategy analyst Stijn Burger sits in Mission Control (i.e.: the car driving behind Nuna) with his laptop. “Mission Control keeps an eye on the car and surroundings. Today we monitored the wind to use it to our advantage.”
Photo: Jorrit Lousberg
Driving on ‘wind energy’
With hard lateral winds, Nuna9 is still able to drive hard, very efficiently, due to her aerodynamic design. Aerodynamics expert Jasper Hemmes explains: “We instruct the driver to position the car in such a way that we can profit from the winds, as if it were a sailing ship. The suction due to the wind and our aerodynamic design enable this. You might say that our solar car Nuna was driving on ‘wind energy’ as well.
Great team spirit
The Nuon Solar Team’s coach Marc Lammers mentions another secret weapon. “One of their strong suits is that everyone’s familiar with each other’s strengths. One team member knows everything about tires, someone else is an expert in the field of aerodynamics, and some other members know all the ins and outs of the solar panel and electronics. This team makes great decisions at the right moments; and they do it together. Their concentration is great, which results in a great team spirit and also a great performance.”
As the wind is picking up, the final racing is expected to be a nerve-racking one. A minor steering mistake could significantly decrease the chance of winning the race. Team captain Sander Koot: “A lot can happen on the final racing day, we must stay focused until the final kilometre.”
Current positions after racing day 4:
1. Nuna (Netherlands)
2. Michigan (USA): + 01:59:31 compared to Nuna
3. Twente (Netherlands)
4. Punch (Belgium)
5. Tokai (Japan)
Total distance travelled by Nuna9 on day 4: 648,5 km.
Total distance travelled by Nuna9 overall: 2562,5 km.