With the shipping/forwarding company (we’re not sure which) still dragging their feet, the team in Darwin is still without a solar car to work on.
Time-filling measures began with a visit to Litchfield National Park. Our plan to set off at 8am was scuppered by half the team not being awake, but we were soon on our way. We decided to stop at the care hire company to drop off the police incident number for the car accident the previous day, in attempt to speed up the insurance claim process. While Alisdair and Oli went inside for a few minutes the rest of the team enjoyed the benefits of air conditioning inside the car, only to realise slightly too late that this drained the battery almost immediately and without warning. At least the car park of the car hire company is the most convenient place to break down.
Why don’t normal cars have warnings that the battery is getting low? If a bunch of students can build a solar car that does this (on a budget of £0) why can’t Mitsubishi build it into their Outlander 4×4 which we’re being charged a fortune for? At least we got a free battery boost from the friendly car hire people.
The trip down the Stuart Highway gave us the ideal opportunity to scout the first few hours of the race. Highlights include: a few slight inclines, lots of traffic initially but barely any after a few miles, some roadworks and an unexpected diversion through a residential area. We were also surprised to encounter some hazy cloud. Cloud poses interesting problems for a solar car with a limited energy budget on a 3000km journey. Does the driver slow down to drive more efficiently, speed up to escape the cloud, or ignore it and hope for the best? A constant speed strategy is often said to be the best, overall strategy in an endurance solar event, but decisions will always have to be made during the race itself, in response to environmental issues.
Litchfield park was incredible. We swam in some waterfalls and a lake, marvelled at magnetic termite mounds, saw some big spiders, and Dan got told off by a park ranger for jumping off rocks. George continues to film everything, and points his video camera at anything and anyone of interest. Inexplicably, he wasn’t filming himself as he was warned about the slippery rocks and promptly fell and landed heavily on his rear end. Thankfully the camera was held safely above his head the whole time. All in all Litchfield is a really beautiful place which is well worth a visit.
On our way back we tried to look around the hidden valley race track where qualifying will take place, but found our entry blocked by a few burly-looking security guards intent on charging us money.
On Sunday we discussed our plans for the week (assuming we have a solar car to work on soon). We all know what we have to do, but it’s often useful to discuss priorities, especially with such a limited time frame and manpower.
In other news, Douglas has lost his shoes. If anyone sees them, find us and let us know. If you’re the thief, we’ll find you, you filthy piece of dirt.
Darwin has a really excellent beach market which we visited last night. Crocodile burgers and a sunset over the water completed quite a relaxed day. Alisdair (ever the stereotypical scot) was placated with a plate of fish and chips, but decided against the deep fried Mars bars.
Hopefully this blog will soon be full of brief technical updates and we’ll all be extremely busy. But there really isn’t much we can do with the car until we have it in front of us.