The Top Dutch Solar Racing Team came in fourth place in the Solar Challenge in Morocco, behind teams from Twente, Belgium, and Delft.
At the end of the fifth and final stage, solar car Green Spirit was once again loaded onto a trailer in order to make it across the finish line on time. Nevertheless, the team celebrated its fourth place as a victory.
‘We had been preparing for this race for eighteen months. Just getting to finish was a great moment for everyone on the team’, says Jamie Jankowsky, clearly relieved. ‘We knew it would be difficult to beat the Twente and Delft teams, so we were aiming for fourth place. We’re really happy. In spite of all the setbacks, we made it across the finish line.’
At the end of the Australia race, it was tradition for the team to jump into a fountain. ‘There obviously wasn’t one here in Morocco, but someone got us a pool. So we all jumped in together to celebrate our fourth place win’, says Jankowsky.
The race organisers threw a party and a ceremony in a luxury hotel in Agadir. ‘It was amazing. The hotel was great, there was a live band and a DJ, a barbecue, and a pool. There was also free beer, which is always a plus’, he says. ‘All the teams were swapping stories about the difficulties they’d run into.’
There were also two consolation prizes for the teams with the most breakdowns, but Groningen didn’t win either of those.
On Friday, the team had to once again drive the car across the finish line on a trailer in order to stay within the time limit. While the team was sad the first time this happened, the mood was different on Friday.
‘The first time, we were really disappointed, but then it turned out that trailering the car is just a strategic part of the race. Teams would get a time penalty if they arrived at seven p.m. Besides, it’s not safe to drive a fragile car through an unlit country with unpredictable traffic at night. We didn’t want to take any risks.’
The team was particularly surprised by the traffic situation in Morocco. ‘We knew there were different traffic rules, but we hadn’t anticipated it would be this weird. There were situations where we were like, how is this even allowed?’ she says. ‘People cut each other off and cyclists bike across roads where cars can go a hundred kilometres per hour. People were risking their lives, and we had to drive our solar car through all that.’
She’s happy with how the race went. ‘Unlike other teams, we had no major accidents. The Atlas Mountains were quite the challenge, but the Green Spirit managed it pretty well.’
The team is proud of their car’s performance, since it was designed for the flats of Australia rather than the mountainous terrain in Morocco. ‘We were barely able to test for that in the Netherlands. There was also a sandstorm on Wednesday night, but the car just got a little dusty and was able to start normally the next day.’
There was also room for improvement, as everyone on the team was doing it for the first time. ‘None of us were part of the last race in 2019. There were some small issues in the team, with communication for example. That could’ve been better. We’ll be doing another race in Abu Dhabi in January. I think we’ll have optimised a lot of things thanks to the experience we gained here and that we’ll be perfectly prepared.’