Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Bridgestone confirms continued sponsorship of biennial 1,878-mile race of solar-powered cars

Solar-powered race car at the starting line of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in Darwin, Australia.
Photo: Bridgestone media website.
With some motorsports events and venues, you can be confident that nearly every enthusiast knows about them. Even if you’re a newcomer, it won’t be very long before you start stumbling across references to the benchmark events of the sport, like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

And how long do you have to follow the sport before you’ll know that, if you want to be taken seriously when you write the word Nürburgring, you’d better not leave out the umlaut, or before you’ll know that the nickname for this notorious industry proving ground is “Green Hell?”

But how many of us know much about solar-car racing, or about the nearly 2,000 mile, seven-day race of solar-powered cars across the Australian Outback that takes place every other October? That, motorsports fans, is the World Solar Challenge—known as the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge since 2019 when the Tokyo-based tire and rubber company signed on as title sponsor.

Last Thursday, Bridgestone issued their official announcement that they are renewing as title sponsor for the next World Solar Challenge, scheduled for October 13–20, 2019.

The World Solar Challenge, which began in 1987, was originally the brainchild of Hans Tholstrup, a Danish-born adventurer known for being the first to sail around Australia in a 16-foot open boat called the Tom Thumb.

Until 1999, the World Solar Challenge was held every third year. Since then, teams fielded by corporations, universities, and even some high schools have converged on Darwin, Northern Adelaide, Australia, to put the fruits of their efforts to advance sustainable-energy technologies to work in an endurance race to Adelaide, South Australia, 1,878 miles from the starting point.

The vehicles are fully capable of practical highway speeds—so much so that rules now cap them at 68 mph. During the event, drivers must contend with real world driving conditions in settings ranging from remote outback passes to urban streets—all while maintaining a constant balancing act to optimize energy management against competitive time pressures.

Entries are now open for the 2019 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. Last week the organizers characterized interest thus far as outstanding, with the first entry already in: this one from the Australian Technology Network (ATN), a group of five universities, including the University of South Australia, which are collaborating for the first time to field a team in the endurance event.

Bridgestone said in their announcement that, since their debut as title sponsor in 2013, they have continuously supplied teams with tires for the solar cars. According to the tire maker, their objective in sponsoring the event is to “promote the development of environmental technologies and thereby contribute to the realization of a sustainable society. In addition, we hope to aid the ambitions of the young engineers that will support the future.”

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