The South African Solar Challenge was established in 2008 by Mr. Winstone Jordaan with the support and mentorship from Bridgestone World Solar Challenge race director, Mr. Chris Selwood AM. This is a biannual event meaning that it only takes place every even year resulting in teams travelling from Pretoria to Cape Town in an eight-day stage challenge across the South African landscapes.
In 2008 the event started as a passion project driven by Mr. Winstone Jordaan. Little did we know what was in store for the future of the event. The first event was a great learning curve for all that were involved seeing that it was the first event of its kind in South Africa. Local universities entered the challenge and built their Solar Cars from scratch also not knowing what to expect. The first international team entered; it was none other than the Tokai Solar Team from Tokai University in Japan.
The Tokai Solar Team from Tokai University in Japan entered the 2010 Solar Challenge once again, they went on to win the challenge again with the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge title under their belt as well. This officially labelled the South African Solar Challenge as an international standard event and paved the way for other international teams who would enter future events.
2012 was another enormous milestone for the challenge with the announcement of the event’s first ever title sponsor, Sasol. The event was destined for greatness and the support from Sasol kicked the event into a higher gear. As the growth of the challenge was an integral part to attract more international teams, some drastic changes were made to the route. The 2012 route was known as the “Long way around” as teams had to travel almost all the way around the country. This was probably the most challenging route that the event has ever rolled out. Despite all the challenges, a victor was crowned once again. Any guesses on who it might have been? The Defending and Bridgestone World Solar Challenge champions, Tokai Solar Team from Tokai University in Japan.
In 2014, the route changed once again, but this time it changed for good. In addition to each daily stage a loop was added. This gave participating Solar Car teams the opportunity to play around with different strategies as the aim of the game is to log the most kilometres on their Solar Cars. A new champion was also crowned this year. Nuon Solar Team from Delft University in the Netherlands claimed the title of the Sasol Solar Challenge with the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge title also under their belt.
The 2016 Sasol Solar Challenge hosted the largest diversity of local and international Solar Car teams in the history of the challenge. The continuation of the daily stages as well as the loops ensured consistency with regards to the roll out and format of the event. The battle for the championship was a mammoth occasion for the top two competing teams. A constant back and forth kept everyone on the edge of their seat. Ultimately the Nuon Solar Car Team from Delft University, Netherlands claimed their second consecutive Sasol Solar Challenge victory over the Tokai Solar Team from Tokai University, Japan.
The 2018 Sasol Solar Challenge broke records once again by celebrating the 10th anniversary with the route guiding Solar Car teams to the most southern tip in Africa at Cape Agulhas. The challenge hosted teams from all across the world including a team of online gaming fanatics from Hong Kong who met online and decided that this challenge would be a great opportunity to do something far from their comfort zone. A high school collaboration team, Team Sonke Siyakude stole everyone’s hearts as St. Alban’s College and LEAP School St. Augustine’s partnered to form a Solar Car team for the 2018 challenge. Their innovation and enthusiasm broke barriers not only for their team but others too, this was portrayed in their performance and sportsmanship. The battle for position was never ending between all the teams. The Nuon Solar Team from Delft University, Netherlands reclaimed their defending title as the Sasol Solar Challenge champions with an emotional celebration with all their competitors.
What will be in store for the 2020 Solar Challenge? Well, you will have to wait and see. The Management Team has bigger and better ideas and are hard at work putting the event together with the guidance and support of the ISF President and Bridgestone World Solar Challenge race director, Mr. Chris Selwood AM. We hope to see you in 2020.