Sunseeker runs into technical trouble after successful race start

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2012 Sunseeker team

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar racing team finished the first day of the 2012 American Solar Challenge cross-country race in fourth place opting for a conservative strategy to make the most of its battery power in cloudy conditions.

On the second day of the event, racers were buffeted by storms and torrential rainfall, and Sunseeker developed electronic problems becoming one of seven of the race's 11 remaining vehicles that did not make it to the Mansfield, Ohio, checkpoint by the time it closed Sunday. The WMU team ended its day by trailering to Ann Arbor, Mich., Monday's designated overnight stop.

The race began at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 14, in Rochester, N.Y., and the first day's racing ended nearly 162 miles later in Erie, Pa. The first car, the University of Michigan's entry, arrived in Erie just after 1 p.m. Iowa State University, the University of Minnesota and WMU were the next teams to arrive, followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oregon State University.

WMU's total elapsed time after day one was five hours and 10 minutes--57 minutes behind the first-place team.

"The weather was cloudy and the team drove conservatively to save battery," says Abraham Poot, team advisor. "This was a good move because their location for charging Saturday evening had lots of trees blocking any late sunshine. They were not optimistic about Sunday's weather."

The cars were back on the road Sunday, July 15, to travel the 212 miles from Erie to Mansfield. At the morning starting point, heavy rains hit just as Sunseeker developed a problem that required the team to remove the top/solar array for troubleshooting. The problems led to a multiple-hour delay and the eventual call to trailer to Ann Arbor, arriving in the early hours of Monday morning.

On Tuesday, July 17, the race will travel through Michigan beginning the morning in Ann Arbor, traveling to Lansing and on to Kalamazoo, where each team will spend at least an hour at a checkpoint at WMU's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. That event is open to the public and includes an opportunity for the general public to view the high-tech solar vehicles up close and meet team members from participating engineering schools.

Sunseeker team member Kenwood Hoben is chronicling the team's activities with daily posts to the team blog at wmu-sunseeker.blogspot.com. The American Solar Challenge official race site at americansolarchallenge.org is tracking daily standings as race times and penalties are assessed.

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