The first leg of the Sasol Solar Challenge got off to a good start with the Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Derek Hanekom, setting the cars on their way from the CSIR Campus in Pretoria.
Of the 13 cars that entered the race, only seven were able to start, the majority of them South African, as the rest of the team’s experienced minor technical difficulties, which meant that they could not take part in the first leg to Vryburg.
Road works and potholes along the route provided obstacles, however teams and drivers took in the scenery of the N14 as their unusually shaped cars attracted attention in every town they drove through.
The more experienced Japanese teams took the lead from the onset and their experience proved invaluable, as the South African teams faced teething problems early on. Half way through the first stage, Australian Solar Challenge 2011 world champions, Tokai University, had a clear lead over the other vehicles and they were followed by their Japanese compatriots, Kenjiro Shinozuka.
For many of the South African teams taking part in the event, this was the first time that any of them had taken their cars out on the open road. Prior to the start of the race, some of the teams put their vehicles through rigorous testing in controlled environments, however the harsh terrain of the road proved to be a more of a challenge for the younger and inexperienced teams.
“We expected that a few of the teams would find the first stage challenging as many of them had never competed in an open road event. As we progress and teams become more familiar with the technical aspect of running their vehicles on the road, we can expect things to get more exciting,” said Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge race director.”
By the end of the first stage in Vryburg, only the two Japanese teams had made it to the finish line before sunset. Today the teams make their way to Upington before continuing down the west coast towards Cape Town.