Suzuka Dream Cup 2010 - Day 6

Ready to race, nearly

The first free practice session was scheduled to start at 7.00 AM. This meant a departure from the hotel at 6.15 AM and without breakfast.

Getting the car ready was going to be easy. Application of race stickers, tyre pressure checks, installation of the old battery pack and we were away. But the Suzuka voodoo struck us again. The motor sensor plug had a broken wire, probably caused by the stress of practicing motor changes on the previous day. Tom fixed it fairly quickly and finally we were able to send Derrick out for the latter part of the free practice session. He did three laps, with his fastest being 4 min 14 secs or second fastest.

Barely an hour later, it was time for official qualifying practice, where lap times determine starting position. Actually, qualifying speed has little to do with performance during the four hour race heat, but pride was on the line! The top guns wanted speed.

TIGA and Nuna started first and before long TIGA posted a time of 3min 40 secs in light traffic. This was the all time fastest solar car lap time ever. This represents an average speed of nearly 95 km/h at Suzuka Circuit.

Nuna posted an excellent 3 min 47 secs. OSU did 3 min 49 sec. Derrick wanted to hold back until some of the traffic cleared, but it never did. In his fastest lap Derrick had to pass 25 other cars. His other handicap was the battery voltage being no higher than 134 volts. This limited his top speed to 125 km/hr. He was cursing a bit but still registered a time of 3 min 48 secs, just 0.4 sec behind Nuna and third fastest overall. We were really pleased.

It was then time to get ready for the actual race. We fitted new tires, our best motor, the newest battery pack and brought out a new pit board. Now we were ready to race. The day was hot and humid and the prediction was for clouds.

57 solar cars moved to the grid for this race. That was quite a sight. Precisely at 1.00 PM the race started with the four leading cars making a big break from the rest. The TIGA car was setting the pace with OSU in second. These two teams are long time rivals from the city of Suzuka, and this was going to be their championship. The mad speed settled down after 10 laps and we were back to trying to run to our planned race strategy. That is until clouds obscured the sun and everyone had to slow down.

At about two hours elapsed time the three fastest cars made pit stops for tire changes and driver changes. Thirty seven seconds was all it took for TIGA and OSU to make their stops. Then Nuna took 1 min 5 secs to make their stop. We were hoping to keep Derrick in the car for three hours but 15 minutes before that he had to stop and could barely get out of the car suffering from exhaustion.

Andris took over for the last 75 minutes and got the Aurora 101 solar car up to 50 total laps. We finished the day six laps ahead of the next fastest silicon cell-equipped solar car and several laps behind third place Nuna. Both Japanese cars achieved a remarkable 55 laps and are on the way to an all time record distance by time the second heat ends tomorrow.

We were unable to have any recharging time between the end of parc-ferme and sunset, so like most other teams we are hoping for sunshine during tomorrow's morning charging session.

It was time for a great big Aussie steak, available locally in Suzuka. We were pleased with the day!