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The Dutch Nuna 2 car had stretched its lead to 50 kilometres at the close of the first day of the World Solar Challenge. The Nuon Solar Team had reached Elliott, 251 kilometres north of Tennant Creek, by 5pm.
The big tussle is for second place, with the Australian team Aurora 101, based in Melbourne, just one minute ahead of the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team from the US. Both are 50 kilometres behind Nuna 2.
One of the favourites, Queen’s University, from Canada, reached the second checkpoint at Dunmarra by 5pm tonight to claim fourth place, while the Southern Taiwan University of Technology’s Apollo lV car is in fifth place just north of Dunmarra.
The cars, which are only able to drive between 8am and 5pm each day, must pass through seven compulsory checkpoints during the 3010 kilometre journey from Darwin to Adelaide: Katherine, Dunmarra, Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, Cadney, Glendambo and Port Augusta.
A hot favourite before the start of the competition, the Nuon Solar Team was disappointed with Nuna’s performance in time trials in Darwin yesterday after it finished 10th. But the Nuna car confirmed its superiority in the early stages of the competition today, quickly overtaking the rest of the field.
Nuon Solar Team is the defending champion after making the 3010-kilometre crossing to Adelaide in a record time of 32 hours and 39 minutes in 2001. The Dutch have since made significant improvements to their car which boasts a top speed of 170kph. Aurora was second in 2001 and won the event in 1999.
There are 22 teams competing in this year’s World Solar Challenge, with seven cars from Australia and other vehicles from Japan, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Malaysia, the Netherlands, France and Germany.
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