Week 7; the last week before the race!
The last week before the race was a chaotic one. We went through scrutineering, testing on the circuit, testing on the public road and last, but definitely not least; the qualification round!
Monday the static scrutineering started. During this part of the challenge our car got tested on safety and regulations. Furthermore, the organization makes sure that our car is the same one we’ve described in our documents. It’s a hectic day; multiple teams are in a big hall where they go through different stations. At each station a different aspect of the car gets tested.
We started our scrutineering with a red sticker, a sign that we didn’t pass that station. The reason? The visibility of our license plate at the back of canopy. Under certain angles it was hard to read the plate. Luckily that was our only red sticker! We went through scrutineering without much issues or big discussions, a sign that the scrutineers have a good feeling about our car. For us this was a memorable moment; we built Green Lightning with our own hands, thoughts and knowledge!
After scrutineering it was time for some testing on the circuit. By doing this we got a good feeling about the round we have to drive for the qualification and we had further possibility to test our car. During the testing we already made some really good times for qualification, but it’s still going to be a tensive moment.
We also spent a lot of time to test on the public road, in which we trained our efficiency and speed in doing control stops. Control stops are important moments during the race; there a quite a few and if we can win minutes every stop, we can make a huge difference in our end time. Since this year is our first participating the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, doing control stops is quite new for us. The whole protocol took some time figuring out and we also got some very helpful input from our friends from other solar teams from the Benelux.
Before we knew it, we got to today, Saturday. The day of the dynamic scrutineering, if which we have to pass a few small dynamic tests but most importantly….we have our qualification round! Just as in Formula 1, the qualification determines the starting position of every team. Starting first gives huge advantages, for example you don’t have to overtake other teams, which saves a lot of stressful situations and energy usage.
Kevin Luinge, our Lead Driver is the one who is going to drive the qualification. During the preparation phase he’s been enormously involved in the drivers’ preparation and his experience in driving kart came in very handy. With his knowledge he was able to coach the other drivers and together the driver group was able to make improvements on driving efficiently, quickly and safely.
Kevin is excited about the qualification round and the part he can play for our team during. The test rounds have been going very well and if he finds a way to improve a few more seconds in the round, we, most likely, have something to celebrate this afternoon.
He prepares by listening to American Rap, a music taste our team never understood, and looking very concentrated. Kevin doesn’t let himself get distracted by our communication team, who can feel the tension in him and make sure to capture his every movement. He looks ready for the qualification; he has his driver’s T-shirt and his special race shoes, which give him extra support in the heels and are more comfortable to wear.
The moment he puts his helmet on, the shutters of the pitbox get closed, giving our driver the full privacy he needs to fully concentrate on his task; making sure our team can be one of the first to start the solar challenge. He gets in the car, being careful not to touch the solar panels, and buckles up. You can feel the tension rising in the pitbox. Team members carefully getting out of Kevin’s way and making sure he has all the room in these last essential minutes. Then the waiting begins; standing in a line with multiple solar cars we await the moment we can take off. Our team makes sure to protect Kevin from the biggest impact of the sun, by placing our country’s flag over the canopy. We get a lot of visitors who take a look at the car, but everyone is extremely focused and hyped up. How will the qualification go?
After 10 minutes he can take off; he drives away with the cheering support from his 25 team mates. He drives quickly and now the tentative waiting begins...
We see him driving past the finish line for the first time, so fast there’s barely time to take a picture. And then the waiting continues for him to cross the finish line for the second and last time. He drives by for the final time and a thunderstorm of applause, cheers and shouting breaks loose. Team members high fiving, cuddling, shouting, cheering…it takes a while to get the information to everyone in the team, but when everyone gets it, the cheering starts again! Time ridden; 1.51.99 at that moment it’s 12 seconds faster than the number 1 and two seconds below the record!
After a few more solar cars have also done their qualification round, the outcome is final. Top Dutch Solar Racing finishes the qualification round fastest in the history of the solar challenge! The newbies in the challenges are the firsts to leave at the finish, an excellent start on our way to get there, together.