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Weather affects solar race strategy

July 20, 2005

TOPEKA, Kan.--Unofficial North American Solar Challenge timing results put Western Michigan University in seventh place at the close of the third day of racing, as teams headed into threatening weather and jockeyed to keep their batteries charged.

The day's unofficial posted results include no time penalties and still may be revised. For 17 of the remaining cars in the race, the elapsed time reflected their passage through an official checkpoint in Topeka, Kan.

The current leader, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the only car to make it to the Omaha, Neb., checkpoint by the 6:30 p.m. close of the racing day. The official stop time for July 19, found WMU's Sunseeker between Topeka and Omaha, along with a cluster of other cars high in the standings.

"It's all about strategy today," said Sunseeker advisor Abraham Poot, as his team stopped about an hour and one-half south of Topeka for a mid-day recharge of Sunseeker's battery pack. "It's raining up ahead, and we want to make sure we have a fully charged battery to take us through the next checkpoint and beyond."

MIT zoomed into the lead with an elapsed time of 24:10:37 at the Omaha checkpoint, which is 921 miles into the 2,500-mile race that began Sunday in Austin, Texas, and will end Wednesday, July 27, in Calgary, Alberta.

At the Topeka stop, which is 748 miles into the race, cars came through in this order: MIT, University of Minnesota, University of Waterloo, University of Michigan, University of Missouri-Rolla, Principia College and WMU.

The number of competitors still in the race dropped from 20 to 18 late Monday, when Northwestern University withdrew from the race and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville was disqualified. The advantage of being near the front of the pack that day was evident, Poot said. The lead teams escaped severe thunderstorms that plagued cars farther back on the route.

Racing resumes at 7:45 a.m. (CT) today. Forecasts for the day call for isolated thunderstorms and the day will begin under mostly cloudy skies.

Go to www.americansolarchallenge.org and click on "GPS Tracking" to see the current location of each car along the race route.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 269 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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