New team, new challenge: the iLumen European Solar Challenge

New team, new challenge: the iLumen European Solar Challenge

Ten days ago, we took on our first challenge as the new team: driving the 24-hour race of the iLumen European Solar Challenge. With pride, we are looking back on this amazing experience!

All participating solar cars lined up for the parade lap

Dynamic Parcours Challenge
The first task that Green Lightning had to perform on was the Dynamic Parcours Challenge, which took place on Friday September 18th. To make driving on the Zolder Circuit even more challenging than it already is, the organisation set out an eight-part slalom parcours on the track.

With lead driver Kevin behind the wheel, Green Lightning smoothly maneuvered through all the pylons. With Kevin's driving skills and the craftsmanship of the previous technical team, we managed to set a track record of 3.01.619! Kevin’s average speed during this flying lap was 79,29 km/h!

Winning this challenge meant that we had the first 20 points in the pocket!

Green Lightning driving through the pitlane during the iLumen European Solar Challenge

Free practices
Before the 24-hour race started, two free practices took place: on Friday morning from 9 until 12 AM and Friday evening from 7 until 10 PM. These practice runs gave our drivers the chance to get to know the track. Besides, it also gave us the chance to test the radio communication, the telemetry system (the technical data stream) and the battery’s efficiency.

Le-Mans start
The 24 hours of the iLumen European Solar Challenge started at 1 pm on Saturday September 19th. The race started with a so-called Le-Mans start. This means that all drivers are standing across their car and as soon as the start sign is given, they run towards their car, get in and drive away as fast as they can. Green Lightning had a flying start and was the first Challenger to head onto the track!

Le-Mans styled start for the 24-hours of the iLumen European Solar Challenge (photo by Bart van Overbeeke)

Driver swaps
During the race we had six drivers who drove in stints (time slots of two hours). After Kevin started off the race and finished his first stint, we had our first driver swap. The second stint was up to Bartle.

According to the race’s regulations, every driver swap had to take at least five minutes. Within these five minutes it was allowed to do small checks on the solar car, for example, checking the condition of the tyres. Additionally, the organisation was at any time allowed to check the car’s lights and the horn. 

Calvin guiding Green Lightning in the pitlane for a driver swap

Night driving
During a 24-hour race, it was of course inevitable not to drive in the dark. The drivers who took on this challenge were Andel, Willem, Timo, Sybren and Kevin. 

Andel drove the car through the twilight, Willem drove into the sunset and Kevin was the first to drive in the complete dark. Around 1 AM, after Andel’s second evening stint, it was time to charge Green Lightning’s battery, to make sure she would make it through the night. 

After charging the battery, which had to take no less than an hour (due to regulations), it was up to Timo and Sybren to keep Green Lightning safe and in one piece. Besides these night owls, there were also enough animals awake around the track. For example, Timo encountered a rabbit on the track! Due to Timo's response on the board radio ("A f***ing rabbit just drove across the track, right in front of me!"), the encounter became a memorable moment for the night crew, which we still have a laugh about ten days later!

Green Lightning during a nightly pitstop

Track record
In the early hours of Sunday morning, when the sun started to rise, Kevin managed to drive yet another track record, as if it was "just another day at the office". With an astonishing time of 2.42.249, we left the other teams behind us! Setting the fastest lap also counted in the final score of the iLumen European Solar Challenge: it earned us 10 points!

The final result
Sunday afternoon, a little before 1 PM, all teams gathered along the pit wall to give all solar cars a warm welcome. After 24 hours of effort, all teams were tired, but the atmosphere was electric!

During the 24-hours, Green Lightning completed 302 laps, which equals 1210 kilometers! This amount of laps earned us another 17 points!

Combining the scores of the amount of laps (17) with the scores of the fastest lap (10) and winning the Dynamic Parcours Challenge (20), gave us an end score of 47 points! 

This score meant that we won third place in the Challenger Class!!

Willem cheering after Green Lightning crossed the finish line

One team, all together 
Making the team a well-oiled machine is not an easy task. With so many different personalities within the team, cooperation was rather difficult in the beginning. In addition to the 24-hour race, working together within our multidisciplinary team was also an enormous learning challenge.

Stress, lack of sleep and nausea due to the amount of coffee you drink every day: the iLumen European Solar Challenge was a test of the team's solidarity. How do you deal with people when they are a bit more gruff than usual? You want to keep a good atmosphere, but on the other side, you also have to perform.

And damn, we performed! When the third prize was awarded to us, the joy within the team was clearly visible. Despite the lack of sleep, all faces lit up with joy.

We are proud to say that the sense of togetherness within the team has increased through our participation in the iLumen European Solar Challenge. We are happy to take this experience with us into the future in which we will participate in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2021. The 24-hour race in Belgium was a good foretaste of “the real deal”!

The team celebrating winning the 3rd price
Top Dutch Solar Racing team celebrating the third place price from the European Solar Challenge