Solar Avenger driven by John King for Gilmer made five laps Monday morning before having to pull into the pits during the early morning cloudiness.
After three hours of charging their batteries as the warming July sun burned off the morning fog and the remnants of last week's cool front, the team had their lunch break and waited. At 2 p.m. Monday, they returned to the track after realizing one of their batteries was not performing up to par. They could replace it but only with a 25 mile penalty. Team Captain King declared, “No way!” and took the driver's seat for his afternoon ride.
Connor Black, the team navigator, pushed the car to the starting position while Malique Fluellen, the safety officer, wearing the orange warning vest, waved the orange flag signaling a car not under power.
Friday when the team first arrived at the D/FW Marriott Hotel and Golf Club on Championship Parkway, Fort Worth, Black and Fluellen attended workshops to learn their respective responsibilities. King had to show his driver's license and provide his qualifications as the team captain.
Saturday and Sunday were dedicated to Scrutineering.
Scrutineering is the term created by the solar car racers to encapsulate the process whereby the judges scrutinize of their creations by the judges and intern judges. As they check the engineering done by the students on the 28 solar car racing teams attending this year's challenge, they certify whether or not the car is ready to race. While a majority of the teams are from Texas, especially the Metroplex, some come from as far away as Staten Island, N.Y.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Walnut, Calif.; Grosse Pointe, Mich.; and the Super South team from Southern Plantation, Florida near Fort Lauderdale.
At the lunch break on Monday, the “home” team from Byron Nelson High School in Roanoke-Trophy Club was in first place while All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth was in second and the Shine Runners Racing Car from Mansfield ISD, Ben Barber High School was in third place. The Solar Avenger 2 with their five lap run in the morning were in tenth place.
During the afternoon trials, Gilmer added eight more laps, stopping after five to change the bad battery out and taking a 25 mile penalty. After added three more laps, they finished the afternoon in 10th place. Two teams, the DeSolar Racers from DeSota High School and the Super South from Southern Plantation underwent addition scrutineering at 6 p.m. Monday as they sought clearance to run on Tuesday. Stony Point High School, Round Rock, reached that goal to join the race late.
All of these teams are competing in the classic division where the cars are limited to a 30-mph maximum speed in part due to their solar panels and other restrictions checked by the judges. On the cross country race Wednesday and Thursday they will have to maintain a minimum of 15 mph.
Other teams race in the Open Division and still others in the Advanced Division. Houston, Miss., Solar Car “Sundancer” completed 138 laps in the Open Division while “Tashka Hashi” (Sun Warrior) of the Mississippi Choctaw led the advanced division with 119 laps. These include either cars driven by graduates of previous races, or by teams meeting different design standards which allow for faster cars to race on the track made famous by NASCAR and Formula One teams.
The order in the race had changed during the afternoon, but Byron Nelson still had the lead with 102 laps completed the first day. Devon Prep suffered from a penalty after being in the first ever collision between two cars at the challenge, and all the teams had their cars propped to capture the late sun as they enjoyed a barbeque dinner.
After more racing at the Texas Motor Speedway Tuesday, the teams will depart 9 a.m. Wednesday for Stephenville for lunch and Bosque County later. Wednesday night the team will stop at Waco where they will be hosted by the Baylor University Engineering Department.
Thursday they strike out for Austin, with the University of Texas J.J. Pickle Research Center and Samsung Semiconductor their final stop. After awards are presented and a press conference is held Friday, an adventure of a lifetime will come to an end.