The 11th World Solar Challenge got underway on Sunday with participants starting out from Darwin, Northern Territory, on a 3,000-kilometer (1,864 mile) solar-powered car race across the red center of Australia. The start follows three days of scrutineering and a day of qualifying that saw Solar Team Twente from the Netherlands take pole position in a field of 37 teams from 20 countries. But the margin was tight, with the team's 21Connect solar car coming in just 0.00.3 seconds ahead of fellow compatriots and four time winners, the Nuon Solar Team.
21Connect crossed the start line at 8:30 am local time on Sunday, October 16th, followed by the remainder of the field spread out at two-minute intervals. Unfortunately for Solar Team Twente, an electrical problem that required the motor controller to be replaced saw them finishing day one in sixth place. This allowed Japan's Tokai University, which took first place honors in 2009 with Challenger, to take the lead at the end of day one with their car Challenger2. The Dutch Nuon team held onto second place, with the University of Michigan slotting into third, local Australian team Aurora taking fourth and the Apollo Solar Car Team from Taiwan rounding out the top five at the end of day one.
Twelve of the initial 37 starters didn't make it to the Katherine checkpoint by the required time at the end of day one, reducing the number of teams still in the race to 25. We can expect that number to drop even further over the next couple of days as the cars make their way south through the harsh Australian continent where temperatures are currently reaching into the mid 30's Celsius (around 95° F).
Gizmag will be at the finish line in Adelaide this week to see which team takes out the honors in the 2011 World Solar Challenge.