Strong showing for Sunstang

Team's spirits high despite a tropical storm and dead 'roo

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Racing the Sunstang in the Australian Outback

Photo courtesy Anthony LaTorre

YOU WON'T FIND ANY BLOOMIN' ONION OUT HERE, MATE. Reservations after Western's Sunstang team put forth a great effort in the Australian Outback: zero. Lame Outback Steakhouse references in this caption: one.

Neither dead kangaroos nor football-sized rocks could crush the spirit of Western’s Sunstang Solar Car team.

After a grueling seven-day solar car race, the Sunstang team has returned from Australia tanned and in high spirits.

Twelve members of the Sunstang team participated in their fourth Panasonic World Solar Challenge, a 3,000 km race in the Australian Outback stretching from Darwin to Adelaide. Thirty-nine teams endured 10 days of sweat-inducing competition during the PWSC.

Western’s team placed 15 out of 20 in the Challenge class, finishing 1,680 km of the race. A tropical storm in Port Augusta, located 300 km from the finish line, prevented Sunstang from completing the race.

Nuon Solar Team, an entry from the Netherlands, finished first in the Challenge class.

Difficulties plagued the Sunstang team from the start. Only an hour into the race, the rear wheel of the solar car was damaged after hitting a football-sized rock. After five hours of improvised repairs, the solar car was back in the race, albeit traveling at a slower speed.

Not to be outdone by the rock, a deceased kangaroo was next to lodge itself under the solar car. The deceased kangaroo was lying on the road before it was hit under the cover of night.

Despite the difficulties, Sunstang’s showing received the praise of Franco Berruti, dean of engineering.

“More than the final result, it is the work that led to a well-designed and well-performing car and the actual participation in the race that really matter,” Berruti said.

“These students worked really hard towards an ambitious dream: they used their creativity and ingenuity and, with relatively limited resources and sub-standard space facilities, they designed and built a very impressive project.”

The culmination of 15 months work, the solar car cost over $280,000 to design and construct.

“Initially, we knew little or nothing at all about the business of solar racing, so the project has been an immense learning experience for all of us,” Pranay Krishen, co-manager of Sunstang, said of the experience.

“Everything we’ve went through will contribute to a more competitive car in the future, but to be able to take what you’ve learned and apply it to other aspects of life makes the project worthwhile in the long-run,” Krishan continued.

Anthony LaTorre, director of public relations for the Sunstang, noted the team plans to participate in the PWSC in two years when it runs again. Right now, Sunstang is focused on fixing the solar car in preparation for next summer’s American Solar Challenge.

Students wishing to join the Sunstang team can email Anthony LaTorre at for more information.

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