Michigan Engineering News


Speed pageant | T-minus 10 hours

One at a time, each solar car competes for the fastest lap around the track. The outcome determines tomorrow’s starting line.

The temperature at Darwin’s Hidden Valley Motor Sports Complex was annoyingly appropriate for today’s event. Blanketed by a humid ninety-one degrees, all the teams participated in the “hot-lap” to determine tomorrow’s starting positions. The fastest team goes first.

The 6:45 a.m. check-in revealed that Novum would run thirty-seventh out of the forty-three total competitors. Adding to the excitement, three familiar rivals were scheduled consecutively before Michigan: Nuon (Netherlands), Tokai (Japan) and Twente (Netherlands) – in that order.

In the 2015 race, Michigan finished fourth behind Tokai, Twente and Nuon – respectively.

With time to spare, driver Nate Silverman caught some sleep in an air-conditioned support vehicle. He’d been up all night in the Royal Darwin Hospital emergency room, having a piece of debris removed from his eye. In the end, it was just some sand, but better safe than sorry.

As the cars lined up on the blistering pit-row, the energy grew. The observation deck overlooking the cars was packed with hundreds of engineers – chanting their team cheer and pounding on the guard rail.

Despite the hype, project manager Jon Cha was focused on completing a solid, but smart lap. The curvy 2.6 kilometers track is not the same as the 3022 kilometer race route. “We don’t expect to get the fastest lap,” says Cha. “Novum wasn’t designed for the track. It was designed for the Stuart Highway. Today, we want to run clean, get a competitive time and focus on the race.”

Finally, it was time. Novum started down the track, leaving the race crew to watch – cheering with anticipation. As the slender car sped past the finish line, the announcement of the official time was buried by the noise of the crowd. After an anxious fifteen minutes, Novum’s time appeared on the official online dashboard.

  • Time: 2:19.5
  • Average Speed: 74.0 kph

This puts Novum starting in the tenth position for Challenger Class vehicles in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Tokai took the ninth position. Nuon took the fourth.

“I’m really excited for what’s going to happen the next few days,” says Chae Woo Lim, one of the team’s two primary drivers. “But I’m also really nervous. I really think our team is prepared. Mentally prepared. Physically prepared. And our car is at it’s best.”

Tomorrow, the real race begins and thousands of hours of hard work gets put to the test – not just for Michigan, but for all the teams who have come to compete from around the world.

Beyond the obvious reason, U-M is eager to make speedy progress toward the finish line in Adelaide where the temperatures are averaging in the low to mid-seventies.

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