Sasol’s annual solar challenge race kicked off over the weekend, as the epic race that spans eight days and over a 1000 kilometres, left Pretoria on Saturday, snaking its way through some of South Africa’s picturesque countryside, ending in Cape Town on 4th October.

Today (Monday) saw the start of the fourth leg, which involves the teams racing each other and the sun light from Colesberg to Graaf-Reinet.

The Solar Challenge has a fairly extensive website, with loads of information about the teams, their current position, and the distance that they have covered so far. You can track your favourite team by clicking here, or if you would like to see exactly where there are on the road through the website’s Live Map, you can click here. If you would like to see a concise roundup of daily highlights, you can click here.

There’s an awesome live map of each car’s current position here.

Sadly the full live map isn't embeddable.
Sadly the full live map isn’t embeddable.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) unveiled its newly-developed solar car to the media August, touting the number of advances that it has made in its design and operation, but sadly the team hasn’t managed to stay ahead of the pack. It’s the team from North-West University who lead the South African contingent, currently standing in third place with 608km on the clock.

At the start of Day 3, the Nuon Solar Team from The Netherlands was in the lead, with Anadulo Solar Team from Turkey in second. UJ’s car is currently in fourth place.

Here’s a clue as to why the Dutch team is in the lead. Look at how small its car is.

Image from the Nuon team’s Twitter feed.

“Overall, we have been impressed by the teams’ performance and the success of the race. This event is the most strategically challenging race of its kind. What sets it apart from other motorsport events is that participants are measured on a number of factors including, lowest energy consumption and strategic use of battery power, rather than who crosses the finish line first,” said Winstone Jordaan, Sasol Solar Challenge Race Director, in a press statement.

But racing each other isn’t the only thing that they need to combat, as there are a number of environmental factors all the teams need to take into account.

“Avoiding strong winds and dust, amid other mechanical difficulties and safety concerns, has therefore meant that some teams need to trailor their vehicles to avoid damaging their car’s solar panels – reducing the daily distances covered,” he explains.

[Image – UJ’s Illanga II by Sasol Solar Challenge]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.