WMU News

Sunseeker set for start of solar race

July 11, 2003

KALAMAZOO--After breezing through pre-race qualifying checks, Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar racecar is set for the Sunday, July 13, start in Chicago of the grueling 2,255-mile American Solar Challenge.

This is the seventh time since 1990 a team from WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has competed in the biennial cross-country race that pits the nation's leading engineering schools against each other in an event that relies on power from the sun as fuel. Nearly 30 cars representing colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada are expected to participate.

The race follows historic Route 66 across seven states to Barstow, Calif., and will begin Sunday morning in front of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Starting line ceremonies will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the Museum's front lawn. The ASC racecars will depart at 9 a.m. in one-minute intervals from the north entrance of the Museum of Science and Industry onto 57th Street and then travel south on Stony Island.

The cars' starting order will be determined during pre-race qualifying trials July 10-11 at MGA Research Track in Burlington, Wis. To take part in time trials at the track, each car had to pass a rigorous series of tests and measurements to ensure it met all ASC race requirements, including those for safety and roadworthiness. WMU's Sunseeker breezed through those checks, which were held at Northwestern University July 7-9. The WMU car created a stir among judges and competitors in the process.

"We're hearing that all of the inspectors are raving about our car, and other teams have been stopping by to check it out," says Roger Anthony, a Waterford, Mich., senior who is co-captain of the Sunseeker team.

The team expects to complete its required 140 miles of track work on Thursday, July 10, and continue to add track miles through Friday in an effort to secure the highest possible start position for Sunday. With the Wisconsin track work done, all participating cars will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday on the north lawn of the Museum of Science and Industry, which is located at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive.

"The first 15-20 miles of the race will be through a construction zone," says Anthony, who is one of the drivers and a veteran of the 2001 Sunseeker team. "That will be tough, but I feel really positive about this car's chances in the race."

Anthony's co-captain, Troy Smits, a senior from Springlake, Mich., also has high hopes for the team's chances, because of the advanced technology they're using, the design and readiness of the vehicle and the team dynamics, which he says will play a huge role during the race.

"We're working well as a team, everyone is communicating well and we're all focused on doing well in this race," Smits says. "It's not going to be easy, but we're going to be very much in the race and we'll compete very well. Our goal on Sunday is to get out of town smoothly with our car intact and then start moving out when the road is clear."

The race is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, its National Renewable Energy Laboratory, BP Solar and EDS.

Note to editors and news directors: Below are details from the American Solar Challenge media team about how to secure video and find daily updates and photos of the race. Also, check the WMU News Web site at <www.wmich.edu/wmu/news> for final starting information and race updates as they become available.

Video of the race will be available via satellite at the following times.

Sunday, July 13
14:00 -14:15 EDT (1:00-1:15 p.m. CDT)
Satellite: SBS6
Transponder: 5
74 degrees west
Downlink Frequency: 11823H

Wednesday, July 23
15:45 - 16:15 EDT (12:45 - 1:15 p.m. PDT)
Test: 15:45 - 16:00 (12:45 - 1:00 p.m. PDT)
Live feed: 16:00 - 16:15 (1:00 - 1:15 p.m. PDT)
KU Band - Analog
Satellite: T 5
Transponder: K 25
UL Freq: 14444.0 (H)
DL Freq: 12144.0 (V)

Daily race results
Results will be posted on the Internet at <www.americansolarchallenge.org>

Photos of cars and additional information is available at the same site.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

WMU News
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