Five wearying days after setting off from Darwin, the Nuon Solar Team has beaten Dutch compatriot Solar Team Twente to claim its sixth World Solar Challenge. The two teams have been neck-and-neck over the mammoth solar-powered journey, and remarkably finished less than ten minutes apart after covering some 3,000 km (1,864 mi) through the Australian outback.
The two teams from the Netherlands were fast out of the blocks on Sunday, as a record 47 teams from 25 different countries set off from the top of Australia in the 2015 World Solar Challenge. With a healthy tail wind of around 24 km/h (15 mph), Team Twente in its Red One solar car led the reigning champions Nuon Solar for much of the first leg. But with the University of Michigan's Aurum car breathing down their necks, the pair slipped to third and fourth place respectively by the end of day one of racing.
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It wouldn't take long for them to reign in Aurum, however, with the Dutch duo arriving first and second after day two and 1,400 km (870 mi) in total of solar-powered racing, separated by less than five minutes. Nuon would cut the margin to just 10 seconds during day three of racing, traveling hot on the heels of Red One over some 700 km (435 mi). Meanwhile, the University of Michigan team, which has come equipped with advanced solar forecasting technology, kept itself within striking distance finishing the day 11 minutes behind the leaders.
Having trailed Team Twente for the majority of the race, Nuon made its move on day four just outside of Pimba, around 500 km (310 mi) from Adelaide. It finished the day at Port Augusta, around 300 km (186 mi) from the finish line, with a narrow lead of two minutes. With the University of Michigan team fading in the distance around forty minutes behind, the 2015 World Solar Challenge became a two horse race. Could Nuon hold its nerve through the final stretch into Adelaide?
The Nuon team managed to keep Team Twente at arms length for most of the morning, reaching speeds of close to 100 km/h (62 mph) as it descended on Adelaide's Victoria Square. Incredibly, after 2,998 km just two minutes and 35 seconds separated the pair. But Nuon surged ahead to claim its second successive World Solar Challenge and its sixth in the event's history, with a total time of 37 hours, 56 minutes and 12 seconds, eight minutes and 20 seconds ahead of Team Twente.
In the meantime, the team from Tokai University overtook the University of Michigan on approach to Adelaide to claim third place. The rest of the field will continue to roll into Adelaide over the remainder of the day.
Source: World Solar ChallengeView gallery - 10 images