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 Johannesburg to Cape Town.
The eight-day event traditionally spans more than 2 500 km, with local and international teams putting newly developed technology to the test as they pass through SA towns.
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.
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, swop drivers, do repairs, and strategise.
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 fermé” paddock. Spectators look on with dread as top teams strategise 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!