Durban team in battle Down Under

19 October 2015 - 09:48 By MATTHEW SAVIDES

Am intrepid team of Durban scientists yesterday embarked on the mission of a lifetime: a week-long drive across Australia fuelled by nothing but solar power. The seven students and four lecturers from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, along with a nine-strong logistics and support crew, began the 3,000km trip in Darwin yesterday hoping that, come the weekend, they will be the first to cross the finish line of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge.Day 1 did not go as well as hoped. The team car, Hulamin, named after the sponsor, completed 332km yesterday in 11th place. The North West University team car, Sirius X25, was in 10th place after it covered the distance a minute faster than Hulamin.But both teams covered more than 300km less than five competitors - led by the University of Michigan, which won the opening stage to Dunmarra in a time of 7 hours and 40 minutes.Speaking before the start, engineering Master's degree student Matthew Woods said the KwaZulu-Natal team was nervously excited.Hulamin, under its former name, iKlwa, won the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge in South Africa to qualify for the international event."The team has been feeling quite optimistic," Woods said via text message from Darwin. "Our car is ready to race. I think, for most of us, it is excitement for the adventure ahead."He said the opportunity to compete against teams from 24 countries was also exciting."It is also quite a surreal moment for most of us as this is the result of many late nights over almost two years."Woods said although the team was positive about doing well, there were concerns."Our worst-case scenario is bad weather. We also hope we will not have any major breakdowns; we need to maximise our driving time during the day to cover the full distance, so any time we waste repairing the car is precious driving time," he said.

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