The World Solar Car Challenge is an eerily quiet race over the Australian outback and reflects the electrical and mechanical skills of students from around the world.
And “reflects” is probably the perfect word. Because these space age ultra wide and aerodynamically low cars are basically solar panels on the move with their performance dependent on the weather.
We are not talking about sacrificing the slicks, because there is a spot of rain. The solar car drivers, cocooned in a cockpit that is actually smaller than an F1 car’s, have to make the most of sunny days, but keep some energy in those huge lithium batteries for when the clouds roll over.
So it’s a very delicate skill. Not quite the guts and glory of a Lewis Hamilton although, even as a fair weather F1 fan, I do realise that he also has to be aware of disintegrating tyres and fading fuel levels.
What amazed me about these half car/half airplane shapes trundling down the highway from Darwin to Adelaide was the speeds they get up to. In fact they were breaking the speed limits at times and so the size of the solar panels was reduced a few years ago.
While you may expect a United States team to be up on the podium in Adelaide, the contest over the past decade has been between the Netherlands and Japan.
And this year, for the first time, South Africa was represented by teams from North West University and the University of KZN. The passion and vitality of all the members of these low-budget teams were an absolute inspiration.