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ICC's Big Adventure in Australia, 2019

Keep up to date over the next two weeks with how ICC are getting on in Australia as they take part in the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. 

Monday 7th October: Mr Birkenhead, Rudhi Jeebun (13LHA) and Callum Porter (ex of ICC now at Thales) left the rain and cold behind in the UK as they embarked on their journey  to Darwin, Australia. ICC in collaboration with Ardingly College will be driving the solar panel car from Darwin across the Australian outback to the finish line in Adelaide, approximately 3000kms).

Tuesday 8th October: They have arrived safely in Darwin, Australia at 3pm local time, 07:30am our time.  They have reported the weather is very warm! Students are setting up tents and tomorrow the fun begins as they prepare for their journey. The official starting line is on Sunday 13th October at 08:30am local time. 

Wednesday 9th October: After an early breakfast (7am) we made it across to the track for some testing. Ardingly's Tom was the test driver followed in pursuit by the chase car to simulate the drive across the outback. Callum and Rudhi kept watch from the control tower to ensure the convoy was safe via radio control. 

After some lunch another test drive with Callum behind the wheel. This time in 40 degree heat as the afternoon sun took hold. Callum's first foray onto Australia roads, albeit a racetrack. 

Thursday 10th October: Today the competition really started as we had to undergo scrutineering at the Darwin Convention Centre. 

A 6am start for the female members of the Ardingly Solar crew as there was a celebration of Women in STEM and there was a collective photo shoot for all the teams. 

We also registered our 22 person team to get accreditation to travel across Australia. All the drivers and passengers were weighed to make sure they made the regulation 80kg. Those who aren't have to carry ballast up to the regulation weight. 

Ardingly Solar had the heaviest driver with ICC's muscle man Callum weighting in at 96kg. 

Friday 11th October: Today has been a fraught day as we raced to pass scrutineering. After working late into the night (which took a large part of the team away from the bbq laid on for all the participants) and an early start todaywe were finally passed for the first fifteen tests. 

We now move onto dynamic scrutineering which will involve braking tests and figure of eight control. 
Other members of the team have been trying to prepare us for the five day journey across Australia by getting provisions and ensuring all the support vehicles are ready to move out on Sunday. 

Saturday 12th October:    Saturday saw us go through dynamic scrutineering. This meant a flying lap and then some close control and braking tests. It was a celebratory day for those that made the start line (which is no easy feat). The cars were a mixed and varied array. The afternoon and evening was spent preparing for the race start on Sunday! 

Sunday 13th October: Official race day starting at 08:30am. 

Sunday was an eventful and long day. After a 4am get up to pack away the tents and get ourselves into Darwin for the Grand Depart. 

Some steering issues leaving Darwin meant the road was temporarily closed for us. We then made awesome progress until a battery issue saw us have to trailer the car when Tom L was driving with Rudhi as passenger. As disappointing as this was the prognosis was good as we made our home for the night at Mataranga Thermal Springs. A picturesque campsite with 1000s of fruit bats in a forest containing a thermal pool. The bats all took flight at dusk as a full moon came into view. Spooky!

We are hoping to be back out on the road tomorrow and put in some of the 2600km needed to reach Adelaide. 

Monday 14th October: Monday saw us all up at 5am to get ready for an 8am start (all cars have to run between 8-5). Once again Tom L and Rudhi were in the car after yesterday's curtailment and all was going swimmingly until somebody in the support vehicle hit the remote 'kill switch'. A simple reset and 300km later at Daly Waters we changed drivers to allow ICC's (I am still claiming him for us) Callum Porter behind the wheel partnered with Zsofia. We will shortly be arriving in Tennant Creek for the evening and hope to be the other side of Alice Springs tomorrow. 

We have made it onto BBC South East TV and Callum is expecting a call in about an hour to give a  interview to the radio. 

Tuesday 15th October: Tuesday was unsurprisingly hot at a balmy 40 degrees. We made our way from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs, which was our longest stage of the race at over 500km. We managed to drive the first 300km before having to put the car on a trailer until we just crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. The car came back off the trailer and Tom D and Deniol drove the remaining 30km into Alice Springs! We shall set up camp for the night here and begin our journey south again at 8am tomorrow. 

We have discovered our tracker is not working so it looks like anyone checking out progress on the World Solar Challenge website thinks we are still a 1000km north of here. Hopefully it'll be corrected by tomorrow. 

Wednesday 16th October: 

Wednesday saw us move from Alice Springs to Coober Pedy. This is a massive 600km stretch which took us from the Northern Territory into South Australia. The plan was to drive the car until it stopped moving and under slightly cooler skies we put in a 260km stint before the car started to show signs of losing power. Callum Porter took the car off the side of the road where it was quickly put on the trailer and we transported it to Kulgera which was our next control stop. We decided to let the car charge on the trailer so left it there for the 300km drive south to Coober Pedy. 

We have now done over half the distance and are firmly in the southern part of Australia in our race to get to Adelaide before 5pm on Friday (6:30am Crawley time). 

We've made the Midi

Thursday 17th October: After sending my report yesterday we hit some difficulties. One of the support cars had a puncture which delayed 13 of us, which was later compounded by our logistics vehicle running out of fuel (faulty gauge) which meant the food and camping equipment didn't arrive before dark. A trip to a local pizza place lifted spirits somewhat. 

We awoke this morning in the bizarre landscape of Coober Pedy which is the largest opal mining town in the World. A sort of 'wild west/frontier town' marked with craters and spoil heaps. 

We were quickly on the road and did swift driver changes as we made our way south to Glendambo. The car did not perform as well on the road today for various reasons but mostly because of colder, less solar conditions. It was left to the ICC team of Callum (driver) and Rudhi (passenger) to steer the car off the road as all power was lost after about 160km. The car was put back on the trailer and taken to the next control point at Glendambo where it was put on a brief charge. 

The car will be back on the road this afternoon for Robbie, Deniol and Alex to get some time behind the wheel before pitching tents and spending our last night on the road beneath the outback stars. Tomorrow we hope to be in Adelaide before the UK awakes. 

PS The temperature is down to 15 degrees and the flies are horrendous. We still haven't seen a kangaroo!

Friday 18th October: Today saw us awake in the outback for our last day of 'racing'. After a beautiful sunrise around the dying embers of last night's campfire we made our way to the finish line in Adelaide. We duly completed the gruelling challenge in style after negotiating the vagaries of the Adelaide ring road and some locals drivers that would make commuters on the M25 blush. 

The achievement in making it across the outback crewed entirely by students cannot be underestimated. The last two days have seen other teams have their cars blown from the road and in the unfortunate case of Vattenfall see their car lost completely to a battery fire whilst leading the race and 200km from the finish line. 

I am sure you will all be relieved to hear we saw kangaroos in the wild and a trip to Adelaide zoo is no longer in order to tick that off the list. 


Saturday 19th October: Today saw us start the clear up process and begin to get ready for our return to the UK. All five support vehicles had to be cleared, and all the equipment needed for 22 people to cross the Australian outback. 

Most of the team had the opportunity to experience the beautiful city of Adelaide. Three of the team gave a talk about the next phase of the project, which will be the construction of a flat pack solar car for use in developing countries. The day was completed by watching England beat the Australians in the quarter final of the Rugby World Cup. All the sweeter for being in enemy territory. 

Sunday 20th October: Today saw the last of the clean up and getting our equipment into order to allow the car to be shipped back to the UK. A walk into Adelaide along the Torrens River to see more of what the city has to offer. On a delightful sunny Sunday afternoon we took part in a parade of all the cars through the streets of Adelaide. 

This was followed up with the packing of the car, and ensuring everything was strapped down for the sea journey the Basking Beastie is about to embark on. The is not due back in the UK until January! 

Our evening consisted of an awards ceremony for all the teams with Eindhoven University being named the winner of the cruiser class (basically the functional models with more than one seat). Agoria from Belgium were confirmed as the winner of the challenger class which is the category for the fastest crossing. 

Monday 21st October: They are on their way home to the UK after an amazing experience with great memories being made along the way, and not a single photograph of a kangaroo! 

We hope you have enjoyed following the daily correspondence and photos from Australia, now to look forward to the Bridgestone Solar World Challenge 2021!

Click here to see all photos. 

The Guardian Newspaper article

BBC iplayer - Graces Amazing Machines series 1 episode 5

@ardinly solar Twitter and Facebook pages are regularly updating.  

Bridgestone World Solar Challenge Website Link