Sunrayce 95 Race Report

A hectic but spectacular Indianapolis Rayce start began a terrific day of competition on Day 1. The weather was nearly perfect for a solar car race, except for the heat of 95+ Degree temperatures. The Minnesota team averaged 33.74 m.p.h which was good for fifth position overall. Day 1 was the fastest day in Sunrayce history and no more than seven minutes separated the top six teams to boot!

Before Day 2 people thought the top six teams would start to slow down, and the lead pack would start to break up. With good weather, team confidence, and knowing about a certain section of road just as you left Terra Haute, the Minnesota team capaitalized on it by passing two teams in one mile the team was able to move up in the overall standings to third place overall. The average speed of Aurora-II in Day 2 was 36.44 m.p.h over a rather long 172 miles. This was another fast day, in that the top three teams were only seperated by a total time of 22 minutes.

Day 3 was another fast day on the 166 mile course, as the time difference for the top three teams was again a rather smallish five minutes. The time difference between Minnesota and MIT was a scant 21 seconds.

A pattern was starting to emerge, as on Day 4 all of the top five teams averaged better than 40 m.p.h. over the 156 miles leg. It was also a close day in which the time separating the University of Minnesota and Northern Essex was a small 37 seconds. After Day 4 Sunrayce officials requested the GM provided vans to verify their speedometer,and if necessary to re-calibrate them. This was done to ensure that all vehicles speedometers were accurate. The total time separating MIT, Cal. Poly. Pomona, and Minnesota was a scant 10 minutes and 6 seconds over a total of 567 miles of racing.

Left: Action shot of Aurora-II on the road to Topkea, Kan. in the rain(Photo courtesy of NREL.)

Right: Aaron MacMillian spraying water on the solar array to increase the array's efficiency while re-charging the batteries in the hot afternoon sun.


Day 5 was the first day in which teams had to deal with bad weather. The day of rest became overcast around mid-morning, and did not clear up for another two days. Day 5's weather reminded several Sunrayce veterans of Sunrayce 93. However, since 93 the race vehicle's performance did improved and provide an interesting day of racing. The average speed for the University of Minnesota was 26.85 m.p.h. over a 160 mile course. With Day 5 the team dropped several places in the overall standings, and ended up in 5th place.

The morning of Day 6 was the same as Day 5, however, about 40 miles out of town the weather was much better, with partly cloudy skies, and a low temperature. Day 6's leg was 150 miles long, and the Minnesota team covered it at an average speed of 33.7 m.p.h. The performance made by the team on Day 6 helped to move the team back up to 3rd place overall.

Day 7 had the best weather of all the days in Sunrayce 95, and the Minnesota team capitalized on the weather. The team arrived at the mid-day in less than 2 hours after starting the race. With this good weather, the team moved up one spot in the overall race standings to second.

Day 8 was the day the team had the biggest fears of the weather, the big jumpin elevation, and the length of the day itself. Day 8 was the longest day of the race, and it was also the day we basically doubled our elevation from the starting line to the finish line in Aurora, Colo. With some smart strategy decisions, the team decided upon a conservative strategy due to the fact that the weather for Day 9 was to be similar or worse, which would make finishing the last day of the race impossible without conserving enough battery power on this day. Both MIT and Pomona gambled that they would see sun as they got closer to Aurora, so they made sure they passed us early on and hold their own smaller race. In doing so Pomona used up way too much battery power, and did not have enough to go the full distance of day 9 in inclamit weather.

Day 9 started off just like Day 8 finished, low clouds, rain, and the cold. Pomona and George Washington made a run very early in Day 9 to see if they could get the other teams to play cat and mouse. They were going through the city of Aurora, Colo. at an average speed of 30 mph, which meant they were using battery power. In their drive to play cat and mouse, Pomona and GW used all of their available energy about 20 miles before the finish line, and had to pull off to the side of the road to recharge. While the Minnesota team took a turtle approach which eventually paid off we passed them charging on the side of the road, and was able to beat MIT across the finish line. Which lead to a wait of 25 minutes before MIT crossed the finish line and won Sunrayce 95.