Seven of the thirteen cars participating in the Sasol Solar Challenge experienced delays in taking off for the first leg of the 5 400 -km race on Tuesday, after experiencing minor technical difficulties.
Many of the South African teams – the majority of them first-time participants – could not take part in the first leg from Pretoria to Vryburg, and would restart on the second leg from Vryburg to Upington on Wednesday, while others were delayed after road works and potholes along the route provided challenging obstacles.
Despite the rigorous testing in controlled environments prior to the event, this was the first time that any of them had taken their cars out on the open road and the harsh terrain of the road proved to be a more of a challenge for the younger and inexperienced teams, commented Sasol Solar Challenge race director Winstone Jordaan.
“We expected that a few of the teams would find the first stage challenging as many of them had never competed in an open road event,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the more experienced, former Solar Challenge champions Tokai University led the race, while Kenjiro Shinozuka, the former driver for Tokai University, followed in second place. Shinozuka had entered his own team this year.
Only the two Japanese teams reached the finish line in Vryburg by the 18:00 deadline.
“As we progress and teams become more familiar with the technical aspect of running their vehicles on the road, we can expect things to get more exciting,” Jordaan promised.