After a couple of wacky days of racing that saw top contenders from the technical universities of Twente and Delft forced out of the race, the KU Leuven students of the Agoria Solar Team are celebrating victory. Their car Bluepoint won the Challenger Class of the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. With an average speed of 86.6 km per hour, the Belgian team clocked in almost 12 minutes in front of the second-place finishers from Japan, capturing the group’s first victory in eight tries.
This came one day after a strong gust of wind pushed race leaders from the University of Twente off the road, causing irreparable damage to their car Red E. The Agoria Solar Team started the final day in second place, spending the first part of the day closing the gap, hot on the heels of the seven-time-champion Vattenfall Solar Team from Delft University of Technology. However, things in the outback got a little too hot, as Delft’s car, NunaX, burst into flames roughly 300 km from the finish line, forcing the team to retire early, as they watched their car burn to rubble.
“It seemed we had the wind in our back: we were in the lead, driving 100 kilometers per hour when I smelled something burning,” describes team driver Tim van Leeuwen. “I asked our chase vehicle if it could be the car, but all measured values appeared normal. It wasn’t long before smoke filled up the cockpit. I immediately knew something was wrong.”
Other Dutch participants include the Challenger Class’ fourth-place finishers, Top Dutch Solar Racing Team, which is a collaboration between Hanze University of Applied Sciences, University of Groningen and the Noorderpoort vocational training center. In the Cruiser Class, teams are still awaiting the final results, but the Stella Era from Solar Team Eindhoven is the heavy favorite and is expected to bring home its fourth consecutive trophy to Eindhoven University of Technology.