The University of Delft's solar car raced across the finish line in Adelaide, having just driven 3000 kilometers across the Australian outback. The car was doing top speeds during the last two hours, maintaining a solid 110 kilometers per hour as they raced to beat the sunset. Traffic grew denser as the team entered the outskirts of Adelaide after five days in the desert, and the little race car routinely overtook regular traffic as it approached the end of what has been a long, dusty, and grueling journey.
It was a spectacular end to a very long day of driving. The team covered about 750 kilometers on Thursday, and lucky for them only one flat tire pulled them off the road for two minutes.
The previous day, a strong and continuous crosswind put extra stress on the left side of the car and damaged the suspension. That day, the team replaced four flat tires in the span of three hours, causing great concern among the car's young support crew, but a few hours of repair that evening seemed to have fixed the problems.
A team from Belgium, Umicore, and Aurora, an Australian team, are staggered about 30 to 40 minutes apart behind the Dutch car, Nuna, and are expected to arrive in Adelaide soon. A surprise finish is expected from the University of Michigan, whose solar car was damaged in a crash in Darwin mere minutes into the race. Rumor has it that the Michigan team is back in the top 6 cars, which would be a very impressive finish for a vehicle that was delayed one entire day from leaving Australia's Top End, as they stayed behind in Darwin to fix the panels and car body. It may even turn out that Michigan's car was the fastest on the road. But speed is just one component in solar car racing: strategy and luck are just as important.