|The first World Solar Challenge was held in November, 1987. Major corporations,
including General Motors and Ford Motor Company, entered the competition.
There were solar vehicles from many countries, including the United States,
Japan, Australia, Germany, and even an entrant from Pakistan. Many colleges
and universities from America and japan were tough competitors.
The course covers 2000 miles of Australias worst road conditions - the Stuart Highway, from Darwin to Adelaide. The surface of the asphalt called bitumen, a mix of rougher and larger stones to resist road wear and increase traction during flash floods, is very rough on the tires. Extreme road temperatures are also common (150 degrees Fahrenheit). Several off-asphalt detours provide especially trying conditions for the experimental vehicles. Other hazards include three trailer road trains that are nearly fifty meters long and travel at better than 70 mph along the highway, creating severe wind vortices.
|The racing day starts at 8:00am and ends at 5:00pm, during which time
each team attempts to cover as much distance as possible, while budgeting
overall energy reserves. A WSC official known as Observer travels with
each team to supervise rules, mark starting and stop times, etc.
Konawaenas car had been improved for the tougher roads, higher temperatures, stronger winds; in general, a far greater challenge than the race in Hawaii. It had to travel three times the distance at twice the speed of the Kona course. Although the engineering aspects were substantial, there were equally taxing logistical challenges, such as airfreighting an oversized car and arranging for transportation and accommodations. By late October, the details were complete and the team headed to Australia.
|Arriving a few days before the start of the competition, the team quickly
set to work. The car had been disassembled for shipping and needed a substantial
rebuilding effort to prepare it. Upon passing scrutineering (an inspection
of the car to see that it conforms with regulations), the vehicle took
22nd place in the time trials that would determine starting position. After
several days, it became obvious that the high school race would be close,
and, in the final two days, media focused on the unofficial battle of the
high schools. Konawaena continued to pass other entrants and, on the last
day, passed Dripstone High School from Australia to lead the pack.
Konawaena maintained that lead and was the first high school team ever to finish the World Solar Challenge. The team finished 18th overall out of 38 entrants, beating many corporate and university teams in the process. Media from the United States, Australia, Japan and Europe televised and printed reports about the Konawaena team, bringing the group into the spotlight of the event.