The Sasol Solar Challenge is South Africa’s biennial competition for talented engineering teams from around the world to challenge each other to cover as much distance as possible as they travel on public roads from Pretoria to Stellenbosch.
The eight-day event spans more than 2 500 km, with local and international teams putting newly developed technology to the test as they pass through SA towns.
The Sasol Solar Challenge is one of the toughest endurance events for solar cars worldwide. Challenges abound, and will require expertise, strategic planning, months of preparation and a meticulous attention to detail.
Before the event starts, however, here are some pre-event basics to help preserve your creative thinking for when the rubber meets the road. See below for an overview of a daily Solar Challenge stage, information on regulations, freight and logistics for your car and team, camping gear, team accommodation, and more:
This tough competition proves challenging for even the best international solar teams. Each day, solar cars and their support vehicles traverse a route of 250 – 300 km. There are three major stops on each stage: the start line – the Control Stop – and the finish line.
Solar teams set off in convoys, crossing the start line in the same order they finished the previous day’s stage. More than a dozen teams will set off a minute apart, leaving cheering supporters behind to embark on the long day ahead.
CONTROL STOPS AND LOOPS
Each of the eight daily routes will require a 30-minute compulsory Control Stop at a set location between the start and finish lines.
For lunch? Sort of! Control Stops are an opportunity to refresh, swap drivers, do repairs, and strategize.
They’re also an opportunity for the host town to come out and support the teams.
Each Control Stop also has an optional loop of road – of varying distances each day – which crews can drive solar cars around as many times as they like, racking up those precious kilometres.
Each loop requires an additional 5-minute stop at the Control Stop – cars off, and drivers out.
But careful! The cut off time at the finish line looms, and that may still be hundreds of kilometres away.
Each day-long stage of the eight-day Challenge ends at 17h00, when all teams have to have their solar cars parked in the “parc ferme” paddock. Spectators look on with dread as top teams strategize and stretch their time, arriving just seconds before cut-off, having squeezed every kilometre possible out of the day.
Late arrivals are penalised, which could change the start line the next day!