Rayce Day 2 dawned bright, promising a sunny day for the team. Due to our misfortunes yesterday with the batteries, our team decided to get up early to take advantage of the morning sun and begin charging. The team got into position for an on-time start at 8am, ready for a full day of driving. We have been taking it easy to keep charging our batteries while we drive but are optimistic that we will make it to the next checkpoint and will meet our projected distance for the day.
The drive has been going well so far. Our drivers are doing a good job keeping alert and the many road trains we have encountered are not a problem for Impulse (Woo-hoo!). With constant reminders from all of the friendly road signs (DROWSY DRIVERS DIE!), we are changing drivers every 2 hours to prevent fatigue, which is a potent possibility on these straight, sunny, rough roads. While the road seemed smooth in our nice cars from VW on the drive up, the experience is quite different in Impulse, whose stiff suspension (for better efficiency) amplifies each tiny bump in the road. Both the mechanical and electrical components of the car are holding up to all the vibrational stress being placed on them (so far), and we are hoping for continued great performance for the rest of the trip.
The Cartland family prepared a wonderful breakfast from the RV, which has proven an invaluable resource for the team during the race portion of this trip. Our Observer Pete noted that the food from our team is the best he has had during the past five races. Thanks to Pam and Jim Cartland for all their help!
The team was off to a quick start in the morning easily making it to the next town down the road from Katherine, Mataranka. Unfortunately more issues seem to have arisen as the day has gone on. We have two problems that have cropped up. The first is one with the solar array. The telemetry team first noticed this issue when the current coming from the array was too low, about a quarter less of what we get under normal conditions. After some investigation it appears that one section of five on our solar array has gone dead. We haven’t had a chance to find out why, but we suspect a loose or broken connector. The second problem is again with the batteries. One of our battery cells is severely undercharged in comparison to the rest of the modules. While Mike was driving the errors in this cell caused the car to shut down. Luckily the team was able to calmly take the situation off to the side of the road and put the car onto the trailer. On the down side however, the time it took to get Impulse onto the trailer caused us to miss the second control point by approximately two minutes.
After conferring with the officials, we were given the go ahead to use common sense and trailer to where we believe we can continue. The team eventually made it as far as Renner’s Creek, a small roadhouse with accompanying Camper Park. While the rest of the team set up camp, electrical members worked to solve our battery and array issues. A broken connector on the front array was discovered and quickly repaired. The battery problem was a bit tricky and required us to break the seal over our batteries and replace the malfunctioning module with a hopefully properly working one. The team decided that having a correctly functioning pack was worth the time penalties this would inflict.
As we were driving into Renner’s Creek earlier in the evening the team noticed large clouds of smoke on the horizon. Our suspicions of a bush fire were confirmed by race officials. It turns out that the fire is located on the Stuart Highway and is in fact holding up all of the leading teams, who were unable to pass due to safety concerns. Information on the situation was limited so we plan to push forward in the morning and will hopefully learn more about this obstacle down the road.
Nicole and Mike