Testing, testing and even more testing
Last week the time had finally arrived: we were allowed to test our very own Punch One on the public road. The days before we were all very excited. There were a lot of questions to be answered: Was the car really as reliable as we thought? How would the car react to the Australian climate? And did we really built a top car?
“Friday afternoon, 13h43, the sun makes a bright glare in the windscreen of a passing road train. Luckily my polaroid sunglasses prevented the dazzling so I could keep the Punch One on the road, despite the huge airstream made by the truck.” – pilot Dokus Soetemans
This is a perfect example of the things we might encounter as a solar car pilot in Australia. Luckily this is one of the things we already practiced last week. For 9 days we got the opportunity to take our solar car on the public road to gain experience, do measurements, practice maneuvers, and so on. And it was quite a week!
Long days, but it was worth it!
The test area was a 1,5 hour drive from our house, which of course means: long days. We got up at 5h30, left at 6h to make sure we were ready to drive the Punch One at 8. But it was worth it! By now we almost drove 2000 kilometers without any problems. However this is only two third of the total distance of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, it is already a nice accomplishment.
We wanted to test the reliability of the car and increase the productivity of the team. That is why we practiced some scenarios last week. For example, we practiced very hard to change a tire, because that happens occasionally. We also changed the motor, because history showed that this might be necessary. Furthermore, we simulated some problems, like an electronic component that failed.
Puffing, toil and sweat
For our pilots, the test drives are more intense than just driving. The car warms up very quickly when we stand still. After 10 minutes, every pore is sweating and the heartbeat rises to 170 beats per minute. Luckily we keep this in mind, so when there is a problem that is not fixed fast enough, we remove the cockpit
Apart from the stopping, the driving was fine. The pilot sits close to the ground and the view is worse than with a normal car. But the most annoying part was the noise. The car itself is full electric, so does not make any noise. It had to be as light as possible, so there is no isolation or whatsoever. The result: the full realizing of the fact tires and wind make a lot of noise. Luckily the helmet covers the pilot’s ears.
Driving on the race track
Yesterday we did a test run at the Hidden Valley racetrack, where the qualification round will be held (this Saturday) to determine our starting positions. The team with the fastest qualification time starts first on race day.
We had one hour on the racetrack. Our pilot Joren had the chance to get to know the course and clock a few laps. He ran the course masterfully. Tonight race pilot Bert Longin will arrive in Darwin. He will be the pilot to drive the qualifications on Saturday. Thursday we’ll take him to Hidden Valley to clock a few laps.
In the meantime the testing is finished and we are preparing to do the ‘scrutineering’, this is technical examination of the car by the organization. Hopefully this will go as well as the testing. And maybe we continue that line to the end of the race!