Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/14/wsc_update/

Collapsing cranes and cantankerous cars

Another day at the solar races

By Lester Haines

Posted in SPB, 14th October 2011 12:00 GMT

WSC It's all go here Down Under at the World Solar Challenge, as the rival teams prepare their vehicles to depart Darwin on Sunday, with nothing more than a quick 3,000km drive between them and the finishing line in Adelaide.

Our on-the-spot Special Projects Bureau team caught up with a few of the participants yesterday, and this morning mosied back to the Hidden Valley Motor Sport Complex, where Drew posed with Durham Uni's car and his fetching new limited-edition SPB t-shirt.

Drew poses in front of Durham Uni's solar car

The front page of today's NT NewsWe'll have more of today's activity down at the track in a mo, but first I'd like to offer an apology to our regular Friday readers who may have tuned in to El Reg for their traditional dose of Bootnotes.

As you can imagine, I'm a bit tied up, so you'll have to make do without "Ohio man cuffed for [verb] with [noun]" and Lindsay Lohan in [rehab/sex/drug/nudity/upskirt] outrage".

However, this might cheer you up: the front page of today's NT News, which caught my eye while I was tucking into a lunchtime platter of meat pie, mushy peas and gravy.

It's quality stuff, I'm sure you'll agree, and if that's not enough for you, try this recent tale of the naked drunk bloke, his "semi-clothed" female companion, and their pranged Toyota HiLux.

Down at the solar car test track, however, there was little evidence of nudity, booze or marijuana, as the entrants prepped their vehicles for "scrutineering" by the race organisers.

Here's CalSol's entry, with its lid off...

CalSol's solar car with its lid off

...and MIT tweaking their hot wheels:

The MIT team tweaks its wheels

The University of Michigan was likewise fiddling about in the pit lane...

University of Michigan's car in the pit lane

...while a few chaps from Taiwan's National Kaohsiung University of Applied Sciences decided that there was time to take break from pampering their Apollo VI vehicle...

The Taiwanese lovingly cover their car with a protective blanket

...to get a quick bit of shut-eye:

Three of the Taiwanese boys crashed out

And fair play to 'em, too, because it's bloody hot here, which of course means lots of lovely sunshine for solar cars to blast their way round the track.

MIT's car guns it round the track

That's MIT again, who did a couple of nifty laps after suffering from a computer "multiple redundancy systems clash", or something like that, the symptoms of which can be summarised by a stationary vehicle requiring the tender ministrations of the IT doctor and his diagnostic laptop.

MIT wasn't alone in having a few tuning problems with its wheels, and there's certainly a bit more to these solar cars than a few panels, four wheels and some batteries.

We hooked up again with the Durham University team, who are mounting their challenge on a comparatively modest budget and number of people on the ground. They kindly let us have a closer look at how their car is put together.

Here's a general view of the machine with its lid off:

A general view of the car's inner workings

The driver's cockpit is hardly luxurious. The string-operated lever thing at the bottom of the snap is the "pilot ingress assist support" - a retractable step which allows the driver to step nimbly into the car without treading on the solar panels. We at the SPB salute this very British piece of engineering:

The driver cockpit

They're difficult to see, but behind the battery box are a simple accelerator and brake. There's also a hand brake, for when you need to park up and nip into a bottle shop for a quick livener.

The battery box, accelerator and brake pedals

The car features a rear-mounted camera - a race requirement we gather - which is monitored from inside the cockpit...

The monitor for the rear-mounted camera

...and you can see here looking out over the rear wheel:

The rear-mounted camera looking over the rear wheel

Finally, here's some of the wiring which keeps the whole thing ticking over:

Some of the car's wiring

So, you're asking yourselves, does it work or what? The answer is yes, and here's Durham's mean machine giving the track some stick:

The Durham team's car whizzes around the track

Tomorrow, the teams will be back at the track for final scrutineering and speed trials. We'll be back too, to check that out and get our briefing for our own drive to Adelaide in pursuit of the World Solar Challenge combatants. ®

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