Team Soleon takes home gold

By Emily Senger

The second time is always sweeter. After their debut at the North American Solar Challenge, the University of Calgary solar car team came first in their class at the Panasonic World Solar Challenge.

The WSC cleaved the Australian continent in half during the 3,000 km coast-to-coast race.

Team Soleon took first place in the production class and placed 10th overall in the face of scorching climate and even hotter competition.

“It wasn’t a run-away or anything,” commented Team Mechanical and Project Manager Colby Bell. “We raced with all the other teams right up until the end.”

The production class limits car construction materials. In the alternate open class, competitors are able to purchase any materials they can afford.

Team Soleon narrowly beat out the Belgians in the final leg of the race despite their diminished crew, which was pared down from the original 25 members who participated in the NASC to a core team of nine.

“The way we picked the team is we wanted to make sure everybody had a role. It worked out perfectly,” said Bell.

Besides chalking up a victory for Soleon, Bell said the trip down under gave the U of C a chance to meet teams from around the world.

“The teams from Japan and other areas invited us to other races,” said Bell. “There was really good interaction with all the teams. It was just cool to be in the same league as all those other intelligent people.”

Much to the disappointment of the crew, the only kangaroos they encountered over the thousands of kilometers were flattened on the side of the road.

“It’s just a beautiful place over there; traveling in the middle of nowhere under just the sun’s power,” said Bell. “We never saw a live kangaroo. I don’t think they’re real.”

The future looks good for the team, which will head back to the drawing board to begin work on the next car. Bell said he believes the U of C should remain in the production class in the future, where teams are regulated in what they can purchase, because the technology developed will be practical and relatively inexpensive­–ideal for common application.

“It just shows the work we do at the university,” commented Bell. “I think we proved that by coming in the top 10 in the last race.”

The Netherlands finished first overall, followed by Victoria, Australia in second and the University of Michigan in third.

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