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Friday, October 23, 2009

Brits battle Aussies in solar car race

A team from Cambridge University has entered the race for the first time and with the backing of new Formula One champion Jenson Button, has immediately been listed among the favourites.

The 3,000km race from Darwin to Adelaide gets underway on Sunday with the leading cars expected in Adelaide a bit over three days later.

Hot favourites are the Nuon Solar Team from the Netherlands with their car Nuna 5.

The team holds the race record and has won the past four events.

But organisers say the Dutch will be under pressure this year after a testing accident in Darwin that badly damaged Nuna 5.

The Dutch also face a strong challenge from the University of Michigan's car Infinium, the Belgium entry from the Umicore Solar Team called Umicar Inspire, Germany's BoCruiser car from the HS Bochum team, the Swiss entry Heliox II, Australia's own Aurora 101 and the Cambridge team with its car dubbed Endeavour.

It takes its name from Captain James Cook's ship that explored Australia's east coast in 1770.

"Endeavour requires 50 times less power than a normal, petrol-fuelled vehicle and experts believe that aspects of its design could provide a model for green vehicles in the future," team spokeswoman Lucy Hickmet said.

"Sustainable transportation is likely to prove an essential weapon in the fight to prevent the environmental decline of the planet and designs like this help to draw attention to the available alternatives to traditional carbon-consuming technologies."

This year's World Solar Challenge features 35 cars from 15 countries and race director Chris Selwood said picking a winner would be difficult.

"We don't really see the technology and ingenuity until the cars are scrutineered in Darwin and a lot of things can happen on the journey south," he said.

The record speed for the World Solar Challenge was set by the Nuon team's Nuna III car in 2005 at 102.75km/h.

Since then rules changes, which reduced the size of the solar panels, have slowed the cars with Nuna 4 averaging 90.97km/h to win in 2007.

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