Day 18: Shake and Bake (in the Sun)

"We don't want ya damaging your cars before ya start the rayce."

Today was rayce day on the track. We began our dynamic testing with a couple qualifying laps. The previously relaxed pit atmosphere was abuzz with the excitement of competition. In the pits, crews worked furiously to prep their cars: checking tire pressure, cleaning arrays, and running diagnostics. On the roof, drivers and captains met for a huddle with the head race official. “And remember,” he said, standing atop a crate, “the track rayce is 3 km, the road rayce is 3000 km. Drive safely, save your car for the road.”

With over 20 hours of raycing under our belts, and a tough stable car, CalSol was in it to win it. Our lap time will determine our starting positions tomorrow, and we aimed to push Impulse to its limits and put ourselves at the top.

Preparing for the qualifying lap, sitting ready to pull out.

I donned my helmet and radio gear and climbed into the hatch. This was it: rayce time. I got two laps: a warm-up and a timed lap.

A race official beckoned me down the runway. I closed the hatch and pulled out of the garage. Teams waved and cheered, but with the hatch down I was in my own private oven and could barely hear them. One last race official gave me the thumbs-up and I floored it onto the track.

I took the first turn fast, decelerating before the apex. As I came out of the turn I accelerated, but something was wrong! No power! No rumbling motor! The car had shut turned itself off. Thankfully, I had a lot of experience with this sort of thing. The tritium motor controller had an annoying tendency of shutting down when decelerating or accelerating too fast. Although bad, this wasn’t the end of the world. I pulled to the side of the track and restarted the car. Motor worked. All seemed to be good. But would the car stall again?

Flying around the track, pulling the fastest lap CalSol has ever seen.

I took the next few turns slower, but this wouldn’t do for the timed lap. I had to go fast and decelerate hard! The batteries were too full and were causing the car to quit when too much current was coming from the regen. After the car stalled again, I pulled to a stop at the end of the runway and switched off the regen. Thankfully I still had lots of distance to speed up before my timed lap began.

I powered up and floored it. 10. 20. 30… A rainbow of cheering teams flew past me. 40. 50. 60. 70… I reached 80 kmph past the tower and 90 kmph before I decelerated into the curve using the mechanical break.

Our new license plate.

The rest of my timed lap flew by. After so much time on the track I knew where to turn and decelerate. I floored it for most of the rayce. Afterwards I pulled onto the drag-strip for the dynamic tests. Impulse had been designed to meet the more stringent ASC regulations, so these tests were easy and Impulse passed with flying colors!

Impulse cruised back to the pit and everyone cheered as I climbed out. We all posed for pictures with our new team #25 sun-themed license plate. We had built a good car and set a great time. At 2:16 we were one of the fastest rookies at the track! I’m very proud of our team; we may not win a trophy, but we’ve done incredible things with limited money and experience. We’ll definitely be back again to set new records!