Suzuka Dream Cup 2010 - Day 7

Completely dependent on sunshine

The last of the early mornings had to be endured as we left for the track at 7.30 AM. We needed to do many jobs to prepare for the second heat of the 2010 Suzuka Dream Cup. Importantly, the only recharging session was scheduled for 10.00 AM and the weather forecast was for cloud. Most teams had used all of their battery capacity the day before in the hard-fought first four hour heat. Every team was in need of a good charging session.

As we arrived we were met by good news; Fuyuko came to us with an official letter stating that the morning charging session would be increased by an hour and would start at 9.00 AM. This was the stewards' decision, based on yesterday's prolonged 'parc ferme' period which effectively eliminated any opportunity to charge in the fading sun.

The weather cleared and each teams claimed a charging area to place their solar panels, once the batteries were released from impound. For cars with silicon solar cells, spraying water on their panels was a necessity. Buckets, spray pumps and water bottles were all used to cool the solar panels and improve their efficiency.

At 12.30 PM the solar cars started to line up on the starting grid in preparation for the second four hour heat. Today, Derrick climbed in as late as possible, having in advance soaked his race suit with water. We expected at least three hours driving from him and didn't want him to overheat.

As in the first heat it was a race between TIGA and OSU. Even in increasingly cloudy conditions they were doing fast times, with Nuna and Aurora in distant pursuit. We had aimed to do 50 laps if possible but it became evident during the afternoon that this would not be achievable. Our official weather forecaster Matt would check the sky and report on impending cloud cover every 20 minutes. Tom would then think of an instruction to the driver as to what lap speed should be set. Thankfully the drivers couldn't hear us too well because the instructions were coming thick and fast.

So in fourth place we stayed, falling further behind the leading three yet getting further ahead of the silicon solar cell-equipped cars behind. At about two hours the leading three made pit stops, all fairly short. We were planning to keep Derrick in for three hours, more if he felt OK.

TIGA had a reasonable lead over OSU, but then struck another car on the track. This caused both front tires to blow out, the wheel spats to fall off and front end damage. The driver jumped out and removed the two front tires and drove the car back to the pits on bare wheel rims. This likely cost TIGA the race. Undaunted, TIGA's Kei Nomura tried his best to claw back the lead that OSU now had. The gap did come down but the weather had become cloudy. TIGA slowed, suffering from exhausted batteries.

So the race ended. OSU had beaten TIGA after TIGA had been the car to beat all weekend. Nuna came in third followed by Aurora. A new race distance record was set by OSU at a remarkable 110 laps. Aurora completed 98 and was 10 laps ahead of the next silicon car. On the podium there were ceremonies, trophies, and champagne. In the pits there was some genuine emotional regret within the TIGA team.

Mr. Maeda from the Sunlake team graciously serenaded the Aurora and Nuna teams with trumpet solos. It captured the great spirit of the weekend. We were happy with our race result and in high spirits packed Aurora 101 away. By 8.00 PM all was done and the trailer was ready for pickup by Yusen in the morning.

China here we come.