The University Record, July 6, 1993

It’s on to Australia for Maize & Blue

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

Twenty-one euphoric U-M undergraduates on the Solar Car Team raced on foot behind driver Deanna Winton on June 26 as she piloted Maize & Blue to a first-place finish in Sunrayce 93 near the Minneapolis Zoo. The race was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and General Motors Corp.

The win was the second national championship for a U-M solar car and garnered the team $66,000 in cash and prizes.

Maize & Blue raced across the finish line at the Zoo at 11:53 a.m. CDT, more than 90 minutes ahead of its closest competitor. The car was greeted by maize-and-blue balloons, television cameras, photographers, and a crowd of cheering alumni and spectators led by President James J. Duderstadt and Anne Duderstadt in singing “The Victors.”

Although the U-M team finished in first place five of the seven race days, they had to overcome a serious challenge from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona whose solar car, Intrepid, held the lead for two days during the middle of the race.

Maize & Blue won Sunrayce 93 with a total cumulative racing time of 40 hours, 38 minutes, and 18 seconds. Pomona finished in second place and California State University-Los Angeles took third.

“We’ve won the national championship. Now our goal is a world championship in November,” said Furquan Nazeeri, team project manager.

In November, Maize and Blue will race from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia in the World Solar Challenge, a grueling 1,900-mile race, competing against million-dollar corporate race cars with professional drivers.

In 1990, another U-M Solar Car Team won the first Sunrayce in Sunrunner, and then placed third in the World Solar Challenge.

Here’s a day-by-day chronicle of Maize & Blue’s journey to victory, based on reports to News and Information Services’ Sally Pobojewski by Dan Ross, the team’s publicity manager.

Day 1—June 20 Route: Arlington, Texas, to Ada, Oklahoma.

Today’s place: 1; current place in race: 1.

The competition: California State Polytechnic University-Pomona finished in second place, three minutes behind Maize & Blue. George Washington University was third, several minutes behind Cal State-Pomona.

Driver Andris Samsons drove Maize & Blue from the Arlington Convention Center to Ada High School, completing the 164.2-mile course in about five and one-half hours.

“The Maize & Blue performed absolutely flawlessly,” said Ross. “We didn’t even have a flat tire.”

Maize & Blue started the race in 10th place, but passed nine cars within the first two hours of racing. Most of these cars were pulled off the road with mechanical problems, Ross said, including the car from Cal State-LA, which started the day in first place.

Ross said the only tense moment in today’s race came when a motorcycle carrying a PBS cameraman looking for a close-up shot of the car came too close for comfort. “We just kept honking and yelling at him and he finally drove away,” Ross said.

Ross said the U-M team is happy and relieved to have the first day of racing completed. “Basically, right now, it’s a dead heat between the first three cars. Anything could happen. We still have a long way to go.”

Day 2—June 21 Route: Ada to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Today’s place: 2; current place in race: 1.

The competition: Cal State-Pomona’s car, Intrepid, finished first today, five minutes ahead of Maize & Blue. George Washington’s Sunforce 1 finished third, 16 minutes behind the U-M.

At the end of its second day, Sunrayce looks like a three-car race between the

U-M, Pomona and GWU.

All three cars ended the day’s 169.4-mile race within 16 minutes of each other and more than one hour ahead of today’s fourth-place car from Cal State-LA.

“We managed to hold onto the lead all morning and pulled into the mid-day stop just three seconds in front of Pomona,” Ross said. “But we slowed down in the afternoon to conserve battery power and were passed by both Pomona and George Washington.”

Ross said the U-M team’s advance preparation prevented damage to Maize & Blue today. “During our race route survey, we found a storm drain in the road one mile from the Tulsa Fairgrounds. Because we knew about it, we were able to maneuver around it. George Washington’s car hit the storm drain and damaged a wheel, forcing them to pull over to the side for repairs.”

Tomorrow’s route from Tulsa to Ft. Scott, Kansas, is the longest leg of the race and very hilly. “Efficiency will be especially important tomorrow,” Ross said. “Pomona and George Washington have lighter cars than we do, so they may do very well tomorrow.”

Day 3—June 22 Route: Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Ft. Scott, Kansas.

Today’s place: 1; current place in race: 2.

The competition: Because of a 20-min-ute penalty assessed against Maize & Blue, Pomona’s car moved into first place with an 18-minute, 20-second lead. GWU remains in third place, about 52 minutes behind the U-M.

Maize & Blue lost its overall lead in Sunrayce 93 today after a controversial call by a race official at a stop light in Joplin, Missouri.

According to Ross, the incident occurred this morning as Deanna Winton drove through an intersection on a yellow light.

“Deanna was already past the light and almost through the intersection when the light turned red,” Ross explained. “She never saw it turn red. Because the chase van is always supposed to stay with the solar car, the van proceeded through the intersection on the red light.”

Team leader Furquan Nazeeri filed a formal protest with Sunrayce officials this evening, but the penalty was upheld. “We’re totally frustrated and upset about it, because it could cost us the race,” Ross said. “If it wasn’t for the penalty, we’d be in first place now, 45 seconds ahead of Pomona.”

Tomorrow the solar cars will drive through Kansas City, the first major metropolitan area on the route. “We may be 18 minutes behind, but we’re not giving up,” Ross said. “It’s still a long way to Minneapolis.”

Day 4—June 23 Route: Ft. Scott to Cameron, Missouri.

Today’s place: 2; current place in race: 2.

The competition: Pomona remains in first place with a 10-minute, 20-second lead over Maize & Blue. GWU remains in third place, about 42 minutes behind the U-M car.

Thanks to quick thinking and good strategy, the U-M Solar Car Team nearly regained the lead in Sunrayce 93 today. Maize & Blue was within 20 seconds of overtaking Pomona’s Intrepid when a Sunrayce official charged the U-M with another penalty, just one mile from today’s finish line in Cameron. The team is appealing the decision.

“The George Washington University car was going between five and 10 miles per hour as we approached the finish line,” said Ross. “They motioned for us to pass. As our caravan passed the GWU car, our chase vehicle clipped one end of a yellow no-passing line.”

The last-minute penalty was a depressing end to an otherwise outstanding day of racing, Ross said. To overcome yesterday’s 18-minute lead by the Cal State-Pomona car, U-M team strategist Eric Slimko developed a plan designed to “run Pomona and George Washington into the ground,” according to Ross.

Slimko calculated a pace just fast enough to drain the less-efficient Pomona and GWU cars’ batteries, but not so fast that the Maize & Blue’s batteries were affected. “The 18 minutes we made up today is evidence that the strategy is working,” Ross said.

A little luck helped, too. Pomona’s car lost four minutes sitting at red lights in downtown Kansas City. “The stoplight gods were with U-M today,” Ross said.

Day 5—June 24 Route: From Cameron to Des Moines, Iowa.

Today’s place: 2; current place in race: 1.

The competition: Michigan and Iowa State University were the only teams able to drive the entire route today. Iowa State finished first, about 11 minutes ahead of Maize & Blue. Pomona’s Intrepid had to be carried by trailer the last 70 miles of the route, incurring a substantial penalty.

Crawling across northern Missouri and southern Iowa at speeds as low as five miles per hour, Maize & Blue moved back into first place today.

By adjusting the solar car’s gear ratio and driving very slowly, the U-M car made it to the finish line in spite of low batteries, thunderstorms and thick clouds that prevented nearly all the cars from finishing the race route.

“The official times for the other cars haven’t been posted yet,” Ross said, “but we must have at least a three-hour lead.”

Ross said it was an anxious morning for the U-M team, especially when Intrepid passed Maize & Blue and made it to the mid-day stop about 13 minutes ahead of the U-M.

“Three miles outside Lineville, we passed Pomona pulled over to the side of the road. Then we passed Cal State-LA,” Ross said. “The power reserves in our batteries kept dropping lower and lower and we kept going slower and slower. Sometimes we were only pulling 50 watts from the solar array, but we just kept on going.”

Day 6—June 25 Route: Des Moines to Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Today’s place: 5; current place in race: 1.

The competition: Although the U-M finished in fifth place for the day, it retained its solid overall lead. Pomona is in second place, about one hour and 45 minutes behind Maize and Blue. GWU and Cal State-LA are fighting it out for third and fourth place.

With just 98 miles separating them from the finish line and a second national victory in solar car racing, the U-M team adopted a “slow and safe” strategy for today’s last full day of Sunrayce 93. Team strategists set an average highway speed of 32 miles per hour, which allowed four other cars to finish today’s 170-mile leg up to one hour ahead of Maize & Blue.

“There was no reason to go faster,” explained Ross. “We decided to protect our lead in the race by going at a slower speed to reduce the chances of a mechanical breakdown.”

The only problems in today’s racing were high crosswinds and rough roads that made driving tiring for drivers Samsons and Winton.

“Today was the worst day for wind,” Winton said. “It required a lot of concentration to keep the car on the road.”

Day 7—June 23 Route: Albert Lea to Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Final place in race: 1. Cumulative time: 40 hours, 38 minutes, 18 seconds.

The competition: Pomona finished in second place with a cumulative racing time about 90 minutes behind Maize & Blue. Cal State-LA was third, about three hours behind Pomona.

The only flaw in Maize & Blue’s last day of racing was a flat tire that was changed by the U-M race crew in record time, while frustrated team members sat in the chase van and looked at the finish line just 50 yards away. “I could have putted a golf ball and hit the guy holding the checkered flag,” Ross said.

Other members of the Solar Car Team are Bill Cosnowski, Andrew Carmody, Kristine Gearhart, Chad Mentzer, Ketan Patel, Andrew Warner, Kevin Cain, Betsy White, Andrew Walberer, Stephen Lukacho, Joseph Bertlo, Mark Kulie, Jeff Zoltowski, Lesley Camblin, Bryan Theis and Harry Yates. Faculty advisers are Bruce Karnopp, professor of mechanical engineering, and Gene Smith, assistant dean, College of Engineering.