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South African team misses third place

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The fourth day of the Sasol Solar Challenge saw the eleven teams competing in this gruelling endurance event cross the border from the Free State into the Eastern Cape.

Strong winds throughout the day and a particularly challenging hill meant teams had to carefully strategize how to do as many loops possible while keeping enough charge to make it to Graaff-Reinet.

Dutch team Nuon clocked the most distance with 586.1 kilometres covered on what was a tough day weather-wise. They’re followed by Japanese team Tokai and the Hungarian team’s MegaLux car. North-West University’s team missed out on a third-place tie with the Hungarian team due to a 10,7km penalty. The team unfortunately crossed the finish line late after a flat tyre damaged one of their wheels, costing them 15 minutes next to the road.

Wednesday’s stage promises to be even more challenging, and teams will be checking their mobile weather stations closely tonight to plan for tomorrow’s leg through Jansenville to Port Elizabeth.

“On a scout trip yesterday, the weather in Port Elizabeth was extremely challenging with high winds. Today’s stage will see the teams tested to their limits in terms of strategy and driving skills,” says Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge director.

Free State crowds had come out in full support of the Sasol Solar Challenge competitors, with schools in Theunissen and Edenburg flocking to the control stops to see the futuristic cars. In Bloemfontein, students the Central University of Technology and the University of the Free State came to see the South African teams off, inspired to bring their own solar-powered challenger to the road in the 2018 event:

“We would love to compete. We should consider a collaboration between the University of the Free State and the Central University of Technology for the 2018 event,” says Molefi Monesa, a BSc Geography student at the University of the Free State.

The 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge had special meaning for the Free State’s Nozi Nkoe, the chief director of environmental quality and protection at DESTEA, the Department of economic, small business development, tourism and environmental affairs:

“The Free State is in a unique position as a province with some of the highest direct irradiation. The Sasol Solar Challenge not only demonstrates to the future engineers of South Africa what can be achieved, but also demonstrates to learners what their future as scientists could be. It is fantastic to see South African teams competing against the world champions. We encourage all universities to take a cue from these teams and bring their own teams to the Challenge in 2018.”

Today the 11 teams travel from Graaff-Reinet via Jansenville to Port Elizabeth.