Last Friday, a local bushfire meant the premature end of one of Solar Team Twente’s final days of testing. During the final race simulation on a designated public road near Darwin, a bushfire started in a nearby forest. When it suddenly spread very quickly and reached the public road where solar vehicles were testing, the organization indicated that it was no longer safe to continue driving. The premature end of this day of testing is another setback for the team after previously being pressed for time due to a lengthy repair to the solar car.
Friday’s race simulation was one of the final moments for the solar team from Enschede to prepare for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Australia, which will begin next week. This simulation is a training session for the team to practice different race situations and their protocols one last time. This is essential in preparation for the race, in which good cooperation between team members is key. “The fact that we have now had to cancel our practice earlier means that we are (again) missing part of that preparation,” said team leader Tim Woertman.
Despite everything, the team was able to complete the first part of the race simulation to their satisfaction. “The practiced scenarios and protocols were well executed and there is good communication within the team,” Woertman said. “That such a positive day is cut short halfway through by something beyond our control is then very unfortunate.” After previous setbacks, including a lengthy repair of damage sustained earlier, this is not the first disappointment for the students.
While such forest fires are more common in Australia, it was still an impressive experience for the students from Enschede. Especially when the solar car had to be brought back safely to the assembly point: “dense smoke hung over the road, ash particles were blowing around, and here and there you saw really high flames,” says driver Danique Kottier. “Then suddenly climate change comes very close.” Despite the impact on the team, everyone was secured in time and no damage or injuries were caused.
It is still unclear how this event will affect further preparations for the race. “Due to previous setbacks, we already missed a number of test moments. This is not helping to make up for that,” said the team principal. “It’s going to be very exciting now that we only have two days left to prepare for the technical inspection and qualifying, and right after that the race already starts!” Next Monday, the technical scrutineering of all participating solar cars will start. This so-called scrutineering lasts no less than five days, after which qualification for the race is on the agenda on Saturday. On Sunday, October 22, the first day of the race will take place. In any case, it will be an exciting week for Solar Team Twente.