Thursday, October 18, 2007


Thursday, the team headed over to the Darwin Showgrounds for the first set of scrutineering activities. Scrutineers check the car to ensure it meets all rules and safety standards. There are several stations that the car must pass through before being issued a permit to drive in the race.

Body And Sizing- At this stop, the car is measured and weighed. The vehicle must be less than 5 m long and 1.8m wide. There is no weight limit on the cars, but in a race where efficiency is important, the lighter the car the better. Our car came in just shy of 5m long, and 1.705m wide with a weight of 250kg.

Driver- This station tests the driver eye height and ingress/egress maneuvers. Each driver must be able to enter the vehicle unattended in 15 seconds, and then egress from the vehicle in 15 seconds. Our drivers did exceptionally well with all of them completing this test with time to spare.

On Road- On road scrutineering ensures that the vehicle has the safety features necessary for road travel. This includes signal lights, head lights/daytime lights, brake lights, reverse, tow hooks,and horn. We had a fuse blow just before scrutineering and due to that, we had to reprogram some of the control nodes in the car. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of time, our brake lights and reverse couldn't be reprogrammed. However the signal lights, amber flashers, head lights all worked well. Our horn woke everyone up in the scrutineering hall. We left our tow hook hardware behind in Canada and so I rigged up something quickly this morning. The rear tow hooks are fine, however the front need to be moved further forward. It seems like a silly rule to most of the teams but we must do as they say. I have a 5 minute solution and a 2 hour solution to the problem. I'll let you know which way I go :).

Mechanical: The car was given a shake down by Transportation Ministry representatives. They checked every nut and bolt and made sure they were on nice and snug. Their main concern is safety and hence were focused on the steering and suspension points and linkages. After some discussions, they were satisfied by our design methodology and implementation and moved us along to the next station.

Electrical: Similar to the mechanical station, electrical scrutineering is focused on the safety of the car. They want to ensure the systems are well layed out and wired to minimize accidents from shorting. They were especially pleased with the layout of the car and the battery pack isolation. The battery pack is completely self isolated hence, all the control relays and fuses are within the pack. This ensures that if there is a short circuit in the pack, the pack will disconnect itself from the car and save the rest of the sensitive vehicle electronics.

Battery: The battery scrutineers ensure that we have not exceeded our battery weight limit and that we came to competition with what we said we would :). Some teams seemed to be stuck here for nearly and hour. Our battery pack layout was very easy to follow. We were once again pleased to hear that they liked our battery pack design. The scrutineers added security tabs to keep people from tampering with cells and replacing them without approval.

Support Vehicles/Safety Plan: This station checks all the support vehicles for compliance. The support vehicles must have proper signage and communications available. Also, the on road safety equipment is checked. We passed this test after replacing some batteries in our radio and fixing our flashing amber light on the top of the car.

All in all the process went well. We still have to fix the tow hooks, reverse, and brake lights. We can have those checked right before qualifying on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

And we're Rolling!!

Today has been the first good day for us in a while. After much modification, we were finally able to get a full day of useful track testing in at Hidden Valley Speedway here in Darwin. After Tom preparred an on-the-fly telemetry system using our old Fluke Hydra data logger and a couple of very impressive wireless modems, we finally have reliable data to work with from our power system.

We have most recently been having difficulties with our motor controller and it's apparent difficulties with driving enough current from a stand still to generate enough torque to accelerate. That being said, aside from a few minor modifications to suspension linkage by Imran, the car has been running well today. Joe posted our fastest lap of the day @ 2m 56s on the 2.9 km circuit.

The array has been delivering a reliable 800 W on a mostly cloudy day, and power was not a problem for us today. Power will likely be a sticky issue once we set out on the race this Sunday (scrutineering and qualifying aside), as we expect fairly consitent cloud cover while in the Northern Territory, and >100 km stretches of highway where the smoke from brush/forest fires will obscure the skyline. Telemetry and strategy will play a very important role if we are to successfully complete this challenge.

As a result of the days' "successes", the team's morale is improving somewhat. Tension is still high and growing taller by the day as we approach our scrutineering appointment Thursday afternoon at Darwin Fairgrounds, and with qualifying and the race looming on the horizon. We hope to get in a solid afternoon of track testing Thursday, and arrange for temporary vehicle certification so we can get in some highway testing Friday Morning out on the Arnhem Highway [SE] of town.

We are hoping our friends at Elmo Motion Control can provide us some assistance in improving our acceleration to acceptable levels. Otherwise the overly generous Belgian Team, Umicore, has offered us their old motor controller to make the full 3000 km trip. This generous spirit speaks volumes to the nature of this event, and is an example of the sportsmanship most of the teams share with each other. I am proud to have the opportunity to work alongside so many great teams.

Umicore, Michigan, Aurora and Nuna were all on form yesterday at the track, as they all posted splits down in low 2:10s, apparently effortlessly. I was watching ( albeit briefly) from Pit road with admiration.

On the Canuck front, we are sharing a 2 door pit garage with Queens, and Calgary and Montreal are only 2 doors down. U of T is just a short walk away and Waterloo arrived today to round out the squad. It just goes to show that no matter how far you travel, you might as well be stuck in gridlock on the 401 ;).

I will try to post as often as possible leading into the race start this Sunday, October 21st, but reality/scheduling may get the better of me. Failing that, for the "official" word stay tuned to WWW.WSC.ORG.AU and WWW.SUNSTANG.CA. Pictures/video will follow... I promise!

Cheers from the land where rain falls up, they wear hats on their feet and hamburgers eat people!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Working Away

Most of the team has arrived and have been tirelessly working away at the car. Overall, the car is complete but there are many little things that need to be fine tuned until we can consider ourselves race ready. We will be driving the car over the next few days and collecting some telemetry data so to develop a strategy plan for the race.

Race strategy will be extremely critical to the success of any team at the Panasonic World Solar Challenge this year. The cloud cover and forest fires will keep essential sunlight from reaching the car. Each team will have to manage their power to optimize speed based on the weather conditions. Fore example, a poor strategy may result in a team using up too much power early, without saving enough for cloudy periods later in the day. I'm working out some different scenarios and hopefully we will have an answer to all the weather mother nature has to offer.


Monday, October 08, 2007


Sydney Harbour (both shots taken at the same time but some adjustments with the camera)

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Just outside of Port Augusta at around 7am. The view was absolutely amazing.

On top of a high plateau coming near Glendambo Road House
This was the most expensive fill up on our trip at the old Wycleff Well, the UFO capital of Australia. The prices were out of this world.....
Controlled burns on the side of the road. There is a high risk of forest fires all throughout Austrlia. We saw several of these fires during our trip and hundreds of km's of burnt land along the way.

In Darwin:

Well, we've made it to Darwin. Jim and I travelled 1500 kms Sunday and arrived at ~10pm. We're both tired but excited to finally get on to the business of racing a solar car.

The beta team is on route in Sydney and will be arriving in Darwin later tonight. We dropped by the hidden valley raceway to check out our pit areas (We're in pit 16, so feel free to drop by and say hello :). Umicar (from Belgium) and Stanford have both arrived at the race track. Nuna is somewhere in town. I'm sure there are others who are working away in their secret Australian headquarters. Peter Drescher is coordinating the teams once again in Darwin. We spent some time catching up and talked about our adventures in 2005 with the old motor. Peter was a huge help in us securing a spare motor for that race and provided us with valuable advice about surviving the outback.

And for all those who want pictures, a bunch of my photos did not turn out well in Sydney (wrong camera settings I suppose). Below are some pictures we took along our travel up the Stuart Highway.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Somewhere in the middle of Nowhere

Imran and I have made it to Alice Springs, the unofficial half way point on our truck trip from Adelaide to the start line in Darwin. We have been cruising steadily at 110, logging >1200 km today, and have arrived in Alice Springs in need of a quick night stop before setting out on the next leg. I saw my first 2 non-roadkill kangaroos today, and 3 Lizardy looking things on the Stuart Highway. The heat in the outback is finally living up to all the Hype ;).

The stress of sweating all the details that were left to be sorted, and those we thought had already been dealt with, is taking it's tole. We are very much looking forward to arriving in Darwin, so we can do it all again, but backwards.

There will be further updates to come, Monday night.



Friday, October 05, 2007

Into the Outback

Jim and I covered nearly 1000 kms today through NSW, Victoria and Southern Australia, ending in Port Augusta. Port Augusta is the last stop before the barren outback lands. There is very little between here and Alice Springs other than desert and a few gas stations and a mining town. This is the most remote driving we will do so i'm somewhat anxious before heading out. We're just packing extra food, and water containers in the truck to ensure that if we do get stuck somewhere, we have enough gear to keep us going until help arrives. There is some road traffic, but it can be far and few between.

Hopefully I'll be able to write from Alice Springs, but there is a good chance we won't have Internet access there. At the latest, someone will post messages Sunday night (EST) or Monday morning (EST).


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Road Trip

Jim and I are rolling out this morning (5am or so) towards the outback. Our trip will take us through Adelaide and then up to Darwin. Even though this is my second such trucking trip, I'm pretty nervous about the whole thing. It's a long way to go, and to assume there will be no vehicle troubles would be wishful thinking. It is very remote out there, and as much as you think you've planned out the journey, anything can happen.

I've decided to take the long route there as it is somewhat more "familiar" to me. The route will follow the official race course during our stretch through Adelaide to Darwin. Today we hope to make 1100-1200 kms reaching Mildura outside of Adelaide. We'll drive into Adelaide on Friday and end our drive somewhat early in Port Augusta 3 hours north on the Stuart Hwy. Our next stop will be Alice springs on Saturday, and Hopefully Katherine by Sunday night arriving in Darwin by noon Monday. That's the plan. I hope to be in touch from the road, but there are no guarantees that we'll have online access.

We have a team phone number that will work sporadically through the outback until we hit Darwin. Feel free to contact us at 011 61 (0)4 15756913. This net kiosk won't let me upload pictures so you'll have to wait a few more days :). I hope the suspense is killing you all :).