Fastest Belgian solar car finishes fifth in World Championship
The Punch Powertrain Solar Team, KU Leuven's entry in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, finished the 5 day race across the Australian outback in an impressive fifth place. "This is a great culmination of a year and a half of hard work," says team manager Jarno Van Hemelen.
The solar car, dubbed Punch One, is the work of sixteen industrial engineering students from KU Leuven’s Group T campus. The team was among 45 others from 25 countries competing in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, the unofficial world championship of solar car endurance racing. The 3,000-kilometre race ran across the Australian outback from Darwin to Adelaide and took four and a half days to complete.
Keep on going
Thanks to a strong qualifying time, the Punch Powertrain Solar Team began the race last Sunday, 18 October, in fourth place. Shortly after the start, the solar car quickly captured second place. But then the team experienced its first turn of luck, a flat tire that dropped them to fifth place after the first day. A broken piece at the back suspension made the team lose a lot of time on their fourth day.
But it was a penalty that ultimately kept the team from reaching their goal of a top-three finish. According to the organization a support car of the Belgian team made a dangerous overtaking maneuvre. But the students don’t agree.
Despite the penalty time the students kept going. Team manager Jarno Van Hemelen is proud on his team: “It is very sad that we got the penalty. I think we should look a our accomplishments and the progress we made. That’s just amazing. We arrived a day earlier compared to last team, that’s a huge accomplishment. I think we can be proud on the work we’ve done.”
Fastest Belgian Solar Team ever
The team had an average speed of 90 kilometers per hour. This makes it the fastest Belgain solar car team that ever participated in the World Solar Challenge.
On the podium were Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), University of Twente (Netherlands) and Tokai University (Japan). University of Michigan (US) finished fourth.