Entries open for revamped 2020 Sasol Solar Challenge

The 2020 Sasol Solar Challenge (SSC) is officially open for entries.

Participants can look forward to a new route and changes in the  format of the solar car race.

Nine teams have already confirmed their participation. The seventh South African race will be held in September next year, once again challenging young engineers from across the world to drive their sun-powered cars across 2 500 km of the country’s public roads. The SSC passes through the Northern Cape for the first time in eight years, with Bothaville, Kimberley, Bloemhof, Uitenhage, Kirkwood, Plettenberg Bay and Franschhoek added to the route for the first time.

Competitors in 2020 will have to think on their feet on ‘blind’ days, with information regarding the route withheld until the night before, forcing teams to strategise on the go.

Experienced teams usually travel the route several times in advance to prepare for any challenges, but will now need to plan for the element of surprise.

The loops on the route, which allow teams to rack up distance and get a lead on competitors, will also be much shorter in 2020.

Spectators will have better opportunities to see the carefully co-ordinated, Formula 1-style pit stops in action, and less experienced teams will have more time to troubleshoot as they stop in with their support teams more often. The SSC, held every second year since 2008, is a popular testing ground for the world’s leading teams to push new equipment to the limit.

Widely regarded as the most difficult of more than a dozen such events globally, the African sun, violent storms, high winds, changing road surfaces and a record drop in altitude of nearly 2 000 m along the route allow teams to gather invaluable data on their vehicles. “The 2020 SSC is once again an opportunity for our team to test and understand the new technology we’ve developed,” says Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)  team leader Johannes de Vries.

The University’s car, Sun Chaser 3, topped the South African leader board with 2 397 km in 2018. (The SSC is a distance race, and not a race focused on speed.)

Sun Chaser 4, which will compete in 2020, is 25% more aerodynamic, and the team hopes to make it 20 kg lighter too. Seven South African teams have entered so far, including first time participants the Mpumalanga SolaFlairs and the University of the Free State, with returning teams from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology; Central University of Technology, in the Free State; North West University; TUT and the University of Johannesburg.

South Africa will also host newcomers Team Solaris, from Turkey, and the Alfaisal Boeing Solar Car Project team, from Saudi Arabia.

More teams are expected to enter within the coming months. Sasol is the title sponsor for the fourth event running.

“We have seen this event grow from strength to strength over the last decade, and are proud to renew our sponsorship,” says Sasol brand marketing manager Nozipho Mbatha.

“The SSC brings maths and engineering to life in the eyes of the thousands of school children it reaches on its route, inspiring them in ways that textbooks simply can’t.” The SSC has also confirmed the support from Sun International, C-Track and the Technology Innovation Agency.

In 2018, the nine competing teams drove a collective 16 249 km.

Dutch team Nuon Solar won the event by clocking 4 034 km, followed closely by Japan’s Tokai University, with just 93 km less distance covered.

BY: IRMA VENTER

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