The University Record, November 8, 1999

Solar car takes top-ten finish in World Solar Challenge

By Karl Leif Bates
College of Engineering

After 1,800 miles and more than 48 hours of racing through Australia, the U-M solar car, Maize Blaze, captured a ninth-place finish in the 1999 World Solar Challenge Oct. 22.

Maize Blaze took only 17 minutes of pit-stops during six days of racing and finished with a 39 mph average. The race’s winning car, Aurora 101 from Melbourne, Australia, finished in approximately 41 hours, with a 45 mph average. Second place went to Queens University of Ontario, Canada, which also finished second in this year’s Sunrayce USA across the continental United States. Maize Blaze was the second U.S. entry to finish, two hours behind the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Manta GTX.

The teams raced as far as they could during a set period of time each day, stopping on the shoulder of the Stuart Highway and pitching tents each night wherever they found themselves.

The grueling race was very tough on some of the hand-built cars, especially an Australian high school car that only made it 40 miles past the start in Darwin before dropping out.

The U-M team traveled with a semi-trailer full of spare parts and a complete machine shop, but a flat tire and loose electrical cables were the only problems the team experienced during the race.

Maize Blaze is the fifth solar car built by undergraduates since solar car racing began a decade ago. A team is forming for the sixth-generation car, which should compete in Sunrayce 2001.

For more details, visit the solar car Web site,, or the World Solar Challenge site,