Feeds

Bushfire halts solarcar race in its tracks

Frustrating wait for teams

Remote control for virtualized desktops

WSC Great excitement on day 2 of the 2011 World Solar Challenge - a bush fire halted the 3000km race across Australia for several hours.

Nuon's Nuna6 drives by a bush fire: Pic: Nuon

The leading pack of solarcars, Tokai, Nuon and Michigan, were holed up early afternoon at a roadhouse called Wauchope, about 1100km south of Darwin, after police shut the road. The bush fire, "worse than usual", according to the jovial policeman who directed us to the roadhouse, was nearly 100km south. But nowhere else was suitable to stop between here, he told us.

The Stuart Highway closed at Waukhope

Two hours later, at 3.30pm, the road was open again to vehicles travelling south. But the contestants stayed put. There just wasn't enough time under the rules - all teams are to stop racing by 5pm - to find a decent place to camp for the night.

Lester and I were under no such constraints and we dashed the 400km south to Alice Springs, having started the day some 850km north of Australia's biggest outback town. We were determined to get there before dark and without hitting wandering cattle. We could see that the teams were right to stay at Wauchope.

Lester by a Stuart Highway sign showing the distance to Alice Springs

Down the track, some 90km south, we encountered smoke, smouldering bush and several small fires. Nearby at Barrows Creek, a roadhouse and checkpoint for the World Solar Challenge, a fire seemed perilously close to a petrol forecourt.

Beyond, the bush was scorched for several kilometres, although, as we are untutored in such matters, we could not tell if this was the result of today's fire or evidence of earlier conflagrations.

So, we find ourselves a long way ahead of the race leaders. A chasing second pack of five teams are, on the advice of the police, all camping out tonight at Tennant Creek, about 100km north of Waukhope.

So let's talk a little about today's racing. More to the point let's talk about what the drivers face on the road. The Stuart Highway is not exactly busy, but there are some monster vehicles to navigate. As well as Australia's famous road trains - up to 53m long and 130 tonnes and looking like this ...

A road train parked up at Dunmarra

... drivers have to deal with fatter monsters, outsize trailers carrying enormous mining trucks that take up more than half the road. We came across a couple today, driving in the opposite direction. We moved off the road. It is not so easy, for solarcars. Bruno Moorthamers (pictured, below), a driver for Nuon, explains.

Nuon's Bruno Moorthamers

Bruno told us of his encounter with the monster truck convoy and their warning vehicles. His support vehicles drove on to the side of road, but solarcar steering didn't allow him that option. Instead he had to carry on, a "little under" the giant trailers.

Bruno also noted the challenge of driving in crosswinds of 38km an hour. Nuon prides itself on the aerodynamic stability of the car, which they think is the best in the field. But even this car, and the others we have seen in action, are moved sideways by the wind.

And Bruno's other comment on his solarcar drive, his first on the public highway? "It was great, actually," he said.

Our last thoughts on today was the checkpoint at Tennant Creek. We were particularly impressed with the slickness of Tokai Uni team in their changeover - as fast as an F1 pitstop team, we thought. So here is a pic of the guys in action.

The Tokai team at the Tennant Creek checkpoint

Tomorrow, day three, we will meander to Coober Pedy, with a view to prospecting Woomera as a site for our own LOHAN project. We aim to connect with the leading pack by the end of the day and will try to update you then.

The World Solar Challenge press team has filed a day two summary here. Also, we have been doing the Twitter thing at regspb, whenever we get an internet connection. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.