DARWIN, AUSTRALIA – An epic 3,000-km solar car race across the Australian Outback kicked off in Darwin on Sunday, with Japan’s Tokai University hoping to bag a third straight title in the 38-team dash.
The World Solar Challenge, last held in 2011, began with a high-tech, futuristic flurry from State Square, led out by Team Eindhoven from the Netherlands in their four-seater car Stella, one of eight competitors in the new Cruiser class, which aims to showcase solar technology for mainstream vehicles.
But the main action is in the streamlined Challenger class, where defending champions Team Tokai are hoping for a third straight win after consecutive titles in 2009 and 2011.
Race organizers said the Japanese team are “quietly confident” despite starting in 20th position after clocking one of the slower laps at Saturday’s time trial, which was won by Australia’s Team Arrow from Queensland University of Technology.
“They are happy with the aerodynamic performance of their solar car,” the race crew said of Team Tokai.
The 2011 event was hit by drama as flames from wildfires raging through central Australia forced a halt to the race until they cleared, and a battery explosion caused the Philippine team’s car to ignite.
“We wish all participants a safe journey as they take on 3,000 km of Australian Outback, chasing the sun all the way to Adelaide,” said race director Chris Selwood.