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Solarcars: meet road trains

Day 3 at the solarcar races

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WSC After yesterday's excitement over bush fires at the World Solar Challenge, the race kicked off again at 8am, with 24 teams still competing entirely under their own steam.

The rest, including plucky UK contender Durham, surely the greenest team in the race, with just seven members, have had to put their cars on trailers at times.  At time of writing Durham has completed just 195 solar km, suggesting to us that battery problems uncovered in trials a couple of days before the race have resurfaced.

Just 12 minutes separate the three leaders, who were held up at Wauchope, NT because police had closed a 100km stretch of road ahead until bush fires had subsided.

Tokai, ten minutes in front of Nuon and 12 in front of Michigan, is expected to reach Alice Springs, the halfway point of the 3,000km race, at around mid-day. And race organisers think it may reach Kulgera checkpoint, 290km south of Alice Springs, by the end of day three.

Bushfires willing. Also traffic conditions are expected to be heavier than the first two days, with large numbers of road trains on the road. These are a significant hazard to the solar cars, despite their protecting vehicles in front and back. For slower solar cars, being overtaken by one of these beasts is no joke.

First, the leading pack has to hit a checkpoint at the small town of Ti Tree, 100km to the south of Barrow Point, which has been discarded as a checkpoint due to "uncertainty" over the roadhouse following yesterday's bushfire.

A large number of teams in the chasing pack set off today from Tennant Creek, with Australia team Aurora establishing a strong fourth place by the end of day two.

Teams set off in a staggered manner to maintain the time different at which they arrived at the town yesterday. Checkpoint opening times have been extended by four hours to compensate for the disruption caused by the fire.

Lester and I have decided to race ahead to Coober Pedy, to give us a chance to recce Woomera for The Register Special Prooject Bureau's own LOHAN spaceplane project. We'll hang out with the lead teams on their last day. ®

You can follow us following the solarcar race at twitter.com/regspb. ®

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