UA Solar Racing Team Update - On to Kingman, Barstow

Ed Stiles
July 23, 2001

The University of Arizona Solar Racing Team continues to lead in the stock car class in the American Solar Challenge. Their car, Monsoon, also is ahead of most of the open class cars.

You can read about the team's progress in Professor Dunbar Birnie's report below. It was filed from Flagstaff, Ariz. yesterday. Birnie is faculty advisor to the team.

He also sent several photos with his latest report. You can see them (along with photos sent earlier) at :

For a complete rundown on the American Solar Challenge, see:



Hi! Greetings from "The Mother Road" - Old Route 66!!

This report is being sent from Flagstaff soon after our team left the checkpoint this morning. Everything is continuing to go great for the team and we are maintaining our leading position among the "stock" class cars -- and still keeping ahead of most of the "open" class cars too!

Many thanks for the numerous e-mail messages of support from those of you on the listserve who have been following our progress! And, special thanks to the parents and friends who made it to Flagstaff and greeted us as we arrived at the checkpoint here just before 5:30 pm local time last night (Saturday). I know that others had wanted to be there but since it was so difficult for us to get e-mail connection during the past few days, it wasn't possible to give you all enough warning to make the trip.

Since I'm now at a good computer connection at NAU, I'll take the time to give a bunch of information that you may want about the race. First, I'll summarize the past few days of travel. Next, I'll give you my best guess about the team's continuing travel towards the finish line. Finally, I will give some pointers about how to use the formula-sun website to track our progress.

Thursday night we stayed in Tucumcari NM in front of Mesa Technical College. Starting there we had the most difficult day of climbing higher in altitude. The day was partly cloudy so we didn't have the maximum power, but we were able to reach the Albuquerque NM checkpoint some time before 2PM. This was an extra-long media stop (2+1/2 hrs)n with a sort of festival feel with solar and other energy displays on hand.

We got underway around 4:20 and continued west reaching Grants NM, where we spent Friday night. It rained heavily that night but the rain stopped before dawn. However, the sky was completely socked in by clouds. Working from our battery pack and what little stray light leaked through the clouds, we limped forward at speeds much lower than we had been going up to that point (typically 20-25 mph!). This kept up until Gallup NM, our next checkpoint. After that, we forged on -- conserving our power as well as possible.

As we continued west, our route took us onto the superhighway, route 40. But, for safety sake, the race organizers required that we maintain speeds of 35 MPH or faster on the highway. This rule made us drain our batteries much faster than we would have liked, but we had to keep going. Gradually, more and more light filtered through the clouds and by Holbrook there were starting to be patches of blue. Late in the afternoon we passed Winslow and were nervously keeping an eye on our battery charge level as it gradually dwindled. But, more and more sun was visible until the sky was mostly clear.

Finally, outside of Flagstaff, our battery charge was depleted, just about 10 miles short of the Flagstaff checkpoint! We pulled to the side and tilted our array toward the sun to charge up our batteries as much as possible. After about 15 minutes of charging we had enough to make it the rest of the way into Flagstaff. Then, just a little farther along we had a flat tire -- which we changed quickly, but it slowed our progress.

Finally, we made it into the checkpoint at 5:26 local time, just 4 minutes before our official end-of-day by the rules. Then we quickly set our array to charging to refill those empty batteries. And, this morning we continued charging and had them very close to full before leaving at 4 minutes before 9 a.m.

The next leg of the race is from Flagstaff to Kingman (about 127 miles). This should take our team probably about 3 hours. After the 30 minute checkpoint, we will be on our way again, now toward Barstow CA. This step is over 228 miles long so it will be surprising if we can make it there by the end of the day. We should be CLOSE, but just not quite there. It is likely that we will finish that last segment on Monday morning sometime. Because we are ahead of most teams then we will probably be spending Tuesday in Barstow as other teams catch up.

The last leg of the race is "staged" meaning that all teams line up again like we did at the start of the race and do that last 110 race miles in close proximity to each other. This will commence Wednesday morning at 9:00 in one minute intervals. The final race standings will be determined by the sum of the times logged for the three main stages of the race. Finally, there will be an awards banquet on Thursday to honor the winning teams.

Now, the race organizers had tried to provide a good way for the interested public to track the racing cars. So, each convoy is outfitted with a GPS unit tracking our position as we go. I just checked that site a while back and it looks like our unit has not sent out a position for the last two days. And other teams have similar problems with their location.

Probably the best web link to use is the formula sun site: and follow various links at that location. One page in particular is nice because it gives race standings in an overview -- but it also looks like it has not been updated very recently. Still, you might want to go to this:

That's all for now. And, thanks for your interest in our solar powered racing car.



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