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Excessive wind bothers solar racers' rear ends

The winners bask as 14 teams battle the desert

Michigan celebrate in Adelaide. Pic: World Solar Challenge

World Solar Challenge Team Nuon crossed the finish line to claim the 2013 World Solar Challenge - but plenty of other teams are still out there.

And yesterday they endured a brutal day of driving in horrid weather.

Wednesday's baking 42°C temperatures halved, but the wind swung around to buffet the cars from the front and sides.

For an indication of just how fast the winds were, know that it often took an unusual effort to open or close our car's door all day whenever we stopped along the 540km route from Coober Pedy towards the finishing line in Adelaide. For a more accurate assessment, consider this bureau of meteorology page recording wind conditions in Woomera, about 15km north west of where the video below was shot. At around 2PM the wind was a steady 24 knots, gusting to 32.

That made for a day on which driving the VultureMobile - a Mitsubishi Outlander soft-roader - required a little extra attention as you can see below.

Youtube Video

The wind also clearly meant hard work for the solar cars, which veered about the road markedly as we passed them. On previous days they were able to hold straighter lines. Drivers we saw emerging from their solar steeds at control stops looked shaken and sweaty.

Today's drive promises to be a little easier, as winds have subsided to seven or eight knots and temperatures will be in the mid-twenties.

For three teams, negotiating traffic will be the biggest problem. Teams Tokai, Twente and Stanford have only 30km from the “end of timing” at Adelaide's outskirts to the ceremonial finish in town to negotiate.

Fourteen other teams are still in contention, with eight still hundreds of kilometres behind in the nastiest desert Vulture South has encountered on the whole trip.

The parts of South Australia visited by the race are almost devoid of trees, offering desert in which little grows above knee height and rasping winds make life unpleasant.

Vulture South's flight home to Sydney leaves before many will make it to the finishing line, but we'll wrap the full results from home, sweet home. ®

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