3,000 km World Solar Challenge car race begins in Australia

32 vehicles started for a 3,000-kilometre (1,860-mile) World Solar Challenge car race across Australia's desert heartland began in the northern city of Darwin Sunday.

The cars left Darwin in hot and humid weather at about 8:30 am (2300 GMT Saturday) on the journey that is expected to end mid-week in the South Australian city of Adelaide.

The first away was Aurora 101 from Australia, having set the fastest speed time trial (of 91.83 kilometres per hour). It was followed by the Dutch car Nuna5, which posted a time of 85.49 kilometres per hour.

The dutch Nuna team has won the last four solar challenge races in 2007, 2005, 2003 and 2001 but had to rebuild its new car before the start of this race after a testing accident in Darwin.

The third car to start was Germany's HS Bochum BoCruiser, which trialled at 82.52 kilometres per hour.

The solar cars race for nine hours each day, stopping at a certain cut-off time each night and camping by the side of the road, wherever they are at that moment.

"We would expect the fastest vehicles are capable of doing, depending on weather conditions, about 800 kilometres per day," Mike Drewer said. "The fastest ones could be approaching Adelaide by Wednesday night, Thursday."

Event director Chris Selwood said picking a winner would be difficult. "We won'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," Selwood said ahead of the race.

For the first time there is also a second category, the Eco Challenge, in which 17 cars from 10 manufacturers will compete in eco-friendly vehicles now on sale, or soon to be on sale, to prove which is the most fuel-efficient.

The Eco Challenge consists of 17 entries, including the first production fully-electric sports car the Tesla, and vehicles made by Ford, Kia, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Skoda, Suzuki, Holden, and HSV. Cars can only travel in prescribed time periods.

Event spokesman Mike Drewer said strong performances could be expected from the University of Michigan, Britain's Cambridge University and some Japanese contenders.

There are also entries from Belgium, Turkey, Germany, France, Malaysia, Switzerland, India, Canada, Iran, Taiwan, Greece and Singapore.

Via - AFP

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