2023 Solar Car Challenge - Race Day 3 - Carlsbad, NM to El Paso, TX
Today, the CCA Solar Car team started out in the Pole Position because we completed more miles on day 2 than any other team both this year (which is what earned us the pole position), as well as, in any year in the history of the Solar Car Challenge. We were in jubilant spirit and ready for the relatively short 102.9 mile run of drivable miles to El Paso. Since we started out with a full battery and there was a strong solar irradiance forecast for the day, our plan was to run top speed for most, if not all of this distance, taking the required rest stop and lunch break in the middle.
Our car ran really strong for approximately an hour and we were continuing to open up a wider and wider lead in our division, until we hit a really big bump in the road really really hard and a few minutes later a weld in our rear suspension broke loose and we had to pull over to the side of the road to develop a repair strategy. Long story short, after 1 hour of working with it, we were able to use a racket strap to pull the broken weld back in place and drive the car at the minimum race speed of 20 mph down to the required trailering point at a State of Texas rest stop that was 4 miles away. Once we arrived at the rest stop, we found two other teams there who had a welder with them, the Ballard Bombers from Kentucky and the Polytechnic team from California. Both teams graciously offered to loan us their welder and the Ballard Bombers team even loaned us their advisor who is a professional welder to perform the repair weld. This is the type of amazing spirit of cooperation between teams that the Solar Car Challenge is famous for. There is this amazing bond that is formed between fellow teams, because each of you knows just how insanely hard that the other team has worked to get here and how but there for the grace of God, your car could be experiencing this same kind of issue right now, and likely will be later in the race. All in all, the repair weld at the rest stop took another ~2 hours, before we were able to get back on the road to complete the remaining 60 drivable miles this day.
Amazingly, our team was still able to complete all 102.9 drivable miles on this day, even though we had over 3 hours of break downs. Frankly, we babied the car the last 60 miles just to make sure that we did not have a repeat failure of our repaired rear suspension. We believe that if we had not encountered the initial rear suspension break down that we could have completed the entire 102.9 miles of available drivable miles on this day in approximately 3 hours. For historical context, we were able to drive 38% more miles on this day's course than we had been able to complete in 2018 with our original solar car and complete it in 18% less time (even though we had over 3 hours of time spent with a broken rear suspension)..