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Updated 10:00 AM October 31, 2007




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Solar Car Team rises above early crash

A heartbreaking crash within the first hour of the five-day Panasonic World Solar Challenge couldn't stop the U-M team from finishing the race with heads held high.
U-M Solar Car team members, from left, Paula Harrison, Spencer Bailey, Kristine Cramer, Evan Quisenberry, Doug Lambert and Cameron Wylie stand with Continuum at the start of the race on Oct. 21 in Darwin, Australia. (Photo courtesy Of Panasonic World Solar Challenge)

The accident occurred Oct. 21 near Darwin, the starting point for the solar car race across Australia. Stanford University's team passed U-M's Continuum and then stopped abruptly. U-M's lead support vehicle was forced to stop and Continuum collided with it, says Solar Car interim project manager Tom Carroll. No one was hurt.

The 2007 team had high hopes. Their innovative "solar concentrator system" used mirrors to track the sun across the sky and intensify its rays. It was the team's answer to new regulations limiting the square meters of the car that could be covered with solar panels. If they didn't prove their technology with a trophy finish, they certainly proved their character.

"The team really came together to get the car back on the road. Every division stayed up all night to do everything possible to fix the car in the 24 hours that we had," Carroll says. "It was amazing to see the impossible happen as we completely repaired the car."

The next morning, team members asked driver Spencer Bailey, who suffered only a scratch in the accident, if he wanted to get back at the wheel.

"Well, yeah," he is quoted as saying on the team's blog. "I didn't get to drive very long yesterday." Drivers usually take six-hour shifts.

Continuum performed as well, if not better than the team expected, which, to Carroll, is bittersweet. Preliminary results put the team in seventh place of 23 teams in the Challenge Class. Continuum finished the second half of the race just 16 minutes behind four-time World Solar Challenge winner and 2007 champion Nuon of the Netherlands' Delft University of Technology. Because of the structure of the race, Nuon, in the lead, was given more time to recharge its batteries.

"We've always been looking for a different finish than what we ended up with, but we are ultimately very happy with how Continuum performed," Carroll wrote on the team's blog.

U-M's Solar Car team includes more than 100 students from colleges and schools across campus, including the College of Engineering, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, LSA, and the Arts and the School of Education. The team has placed third in the World Solar Challenge three times. It has won the North American Solar Challenge four times, most recently at the last event in 2005.

Read the team's blog at

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