Sunseeker poised for top-five finish
July 22, 2003
KALAMAZOO -- After the past two race days in which it covered more than 700 miles with an average speed of 45 mph, Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar racecar will begin the final 91 miles of the American Solar Challenge July 23 in fifth place, poised to turn in WMU's best ever solar race finish.
The final leg of the 2,300-mile biennial cross-country race will begin at 9 a.m. (PDT) Wednesday, July 23, in Barstow, Calif., and end in Claremont, Calif., before noon. Race leaders, including the team from WMU, arrived in Barstow late Monday and are awaiting the rest of the field before starting the final run at the finish line.
The University of Missouri-Rolla remains in first place, a position it has held since the fourth day of the 10-day race. Other top-five teams in descending order are: University of Minnesota, University of Waterloo and Principia College. The cars' positions reflect sizeable differences in elapsed time. WMU's Sunseeker, for instance is sandwiched 50 minutes behind fourth-place Principia and 19 minutes ahead of sixth-place Missouri-Columbia.
This is the seventh time since 1990 a team from WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences has competed in the race that pits the nation's leading engineering schools against each other in the event that relies on power from the sun as fuel. A field of 20 cars representing colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada are competing in the July 13-23 race, which has followed historic Route 66 across seven states from Chicago to Barstow, Calif. WMU is the only Michigan school to qualify for the race this year.
The past two days of racing for the lead teams--July 20 and 21-- took them from Albuquerque, N.M., on a steady climb to Flagstaff, Ariz., then across northern Arizona to Kingman and into California to cross the Mojave Desert. Veteran driver and team co-captain Roger Anthony, a senior from Waterford, Mich., says the WMU car with its powerful solar array really had a chance to shine during the 721-mile Albuquerque to Barstow leg of the race. The car's speed between several checkpoints averaged 55 mph as the car raced uphill into Arizona and across the desert.
"We had an awesome run Sunday and the first half of the day Monday before the clouds set in," Anthony said. "This is an excellent car, definitely one of the better cars in the race."
He said despite Tuesday's clouds, the team had plenty of time to charge the car's batteries and were looking forward to a strong finish.
Anthony's co-captain, Troy Smits, a senior from Springlake, Mich., says the past two days of racing tested the car. The last part of the trip into Barstow was on extremely rough roads under gathering clouds.
"Rough roads affect the amount of energy used," Smits says. "It can take as much energy to go 30 mph on a rough road as it does to go 65 mph on a smooth road."
Anthony will be at the wheel for the race finish, and he and Smits expect a fast, smooth run.
"We'll be going downhill all the way on a full battery charge," Smits notes.
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 WMU and the American Solar Challenge media team about how to secure video, photos and interviews to cover the end of the race. Also, check the WMU News Web site at <www.wmich.edu/wmu/news> for race updates as they become available.
The following information is provided by the NREL media team that is working on the race.
How to cover the end of the race
Uplink: Wednesday, July 23
Daily race results
Phone contact with team members
Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org