29 October 2021

Silver for Belgian Solar Team in Morocco

The Agoria Solar Team took part in its first competition on the African continent, in October 2021, in the beautiful Morocco. In just five days' time, teams from all over the world were challenged to cover a distance of 2,500 kilometres in a self-built solar car, powered entirely by solar energy. Unique to this competition were the many height distances the teams had to overcome, as the route of the race ran along the foot of the steep Atlas Mountains. After winning the World Championship in Australia in 2019 and winning the European Championship in Belgium in 2020 and 2021, the Belgian team went all out for the win in Morocco. After five exciting days, the Leuven students finished in a good second place, a few minutes behind the team from Twente (Netherlands). Below is a summary of the Solar Challenge Morocco 2021.

Day 1 - The perfect start

Monday 25 October 2021 - Finally the time has come, after months of preparation the ninth Belgian solar car is ready at the start of the Solar Challenge in Morocco. Thanks to a successful qualification round, the students from Leuven can start the race in third place, six minutes behind the team from Groningen and three minutes behind the team from Delft. 

In the first stage, the teams will have to drive from the port city of Agadir towards the Atlas Mountains. The first challenge was to navigate within the hectic Moroccan traffic, good communication between the convoy cars and quick strategic decisions were of utmost importance. With success, because after one and a half hours of driving, the Leuven team succeeded in overtaking both the team from Delft and the one from Groningen. This allowed the Belgian solar car to be the first to start on the challenging slopes at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, which went off without a hitch. After 463 kilometres, the Agoria Solar Team crossed the finish line first, with a 17 minute lead on the chase. A perfect start which gave the team an enormous boost to give everything in the following days too.

Day 2 - Competition in the mountains

Tuesday, 26 October 2021 - The BluePoint Atlas team started the second and perhaps most challenging stage of the competition in good spirits. On the programme for stage four was the longest distance, as well as the most mountain passes as the team drove from the Atlas Mountains towards the Sahara Desert. The weather conditions were ideal, and without any problems, the Belgian team maintained their leading position throughout the day. At the end of the day, however, the team was overtaken in the last few kilometres by the student team from Twente, who had started a tough catch-up campaign to close the gap. As a result, the Agoria Solar Team crossed the finish line of the stage in second place, a few minutes after the Dutchmen. However, the first place in the overall ranking remained maintained.

Day 3 - Eventful day

Wednesday, 27 October 2021 - On the programme of day three was a big loop of 527 kilometres at the edge of the Sahara. Remarkable about the route was the many villages and towns through which the teams had to find their way. The Moroccan villages and towns are known for their chaotic traffic where the lane is shared by cars, scooters, cyclists, pedestrians and even donkeys with carts. The students from Leuven used horns and whistles to clear the lane for the solar car. The inhabitants of the villages were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of the remarkable car. 

The Belgian team started the day with an 11-minute lead over the Dutch student team from Twente. It soon became apparent that the neighbours from the north were using a very different strategy with a higher driving speed, so it did not take them long to leave the Belgians behind. Around noon, the Belgian solar car suffered a tyre blowout due to a sharp stone on the track. The flat tyre meant that the Belgian team lost a few minutes, allowing the Dutch to increase their lead. In the overall ranking, the Agoria Solar Team lost its lead to the competition from Twente.

However, that was not all for day three. While the team was busy in the evening with the repairs and preparations for the next day, a sandstorm suddenly blew up. The tent that the team had set up as a workshop was clamped down with all hands to prevent it from being blown away by the strong wind. Fortunately, the solar car was unharmed and was ready in time to start the fourth and penultimate stage the next day.  

Day 4 - Through the water

Thursday 28 October 2021 - On the programme of the penultimate stage was a hilly route of 449 kilometres towards the inland. It soon became clear that the storm of the previous evening had created an extra challenge, as the heavy rain flooded many roads. This was also the case on the route, which meant that the solar car had to drive through large puddles. The solar car is waterproof, so flooding was no problem for the team. It was a bit of a shock to see the solar car, which is only 1 metre high, drive through the water.

The students from Leuven left on day four with the aim of reducing the gap with the front runner. Despite a higher speed, the Belgians finished 13 minutes behind the Solar Team from Twente, good for second place. In third place is the student team from Delft with a gap of more than two hours. The Solar Teams from Germany and Sweden were unable to complete the previous stages, which once again shows how challenging the race in Morocco is. Tomorrow will be the last chance for the Belgians to catch up.

Dag 5 - Last catch up

Friday, 29 October 2021 - The Belgian solar car started the fifth and final stage of the Solar Challenge in Morocco on Friday morning. On the programme was a 456-kilometre ride to the finish line in Agadir. The students from Leuven had to catch up 49 minutes to take first place. Early in the stage, the Belgian solar car was overtaken by the Dutch team from Delft, the biggest competitor in previous editions. On the passage through the Atlas Mountains, the Dutch solar car struggled with the steep slopes, allowing the Belgians to regain their second place. An overtaking manoeuvre on the front runners from Twente followed not much later. The Belgians finally managed to win the last stage. Unfortunately, this was not enough to close the gap in the overall ranking. The Belgian Solar Team eventually finished in second place. The Solar Team from Twente wins the race and in third place follows the Solar Team from Delft with more than two hours lag.

"I feel fantastic. We survived the challenge in Morocco. The whole team did a fantastic job, we really got everything out of the solar car."
Victor Verhaert (23, Edegem), Team manager of the Agoria Solar Team

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