September 2018
  • Day1

    Dawn start

    September 21, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    I'm awake before our scheduled 4am alarms so get moving quickly. John and Philip aren't far behind me and we're soon all dressed, eaten and loading the car. Philip takes the first shift to experience his first motorway driving in the dark.

    I take over at Clackett Lane and, as dawn lightens the sky, we head for Dover. The roads are clear and we arrive at Dover in good time. Passport control and check in go smoothly so very soon we are parked up in line 88 waiting to board.

    Shortly before 08.00 boarding commences. Soon after that we're in the café enjoying a much needed coffee. We turn our backs on the White Cliffs and look forward to our trip to Zolder. I'm particularly looking forward to all ten of our Aussie solar car team being together for the first time since we left Adelaide in October 2015.

    Half an hour in the ferry's rocking gently and I'm beginning to feel a bit disembodied. I'm definitely better sitting down than standing up...
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  • Day1

    Dunkirk to Zolder

    September 21, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ 🌬 15 °C

    We dock bang on time at 11.00. I dump my swimming head in the back seat and let Philip navigate. Within about 20 minutes we're off the ferry, clear of the dock and the associated heavy traffic, my head is getting back to normal and we're heading for Belgium.

    Undramatically we cross the border and press on. It's very flat around here, lots of wind turbines too. Generally the traffic is pretty good. 80 miles in we ran into the back end of a delay that we'd been watching for quite a while but it was just about breaking up as we got there so it wasn't much more than a short slow down.

    Then moules and chips at a service station. Into Brussels, past a cathedral and through a long tunnel under Brussels. And then straight into another long tunnel. Out into the sun and then into a third tunnel!

    More tunnels. Very confusing and then we've missed our exit in the tunnel. Then follows a short but manic, confusing excursion around Brussels, including, just for extra fun, a diversion! And then, finally, we're back on the road we should be and heading for Zolder. Philip's done a sterling job navigating John round Brussels.

    52km later and here's the exit for Circuit Zolder! Off the motorway and we've run into roadworks with very slow traffic lights...we're only 1km from the entrance. We've moved a bit and can now enjoy views of lakes on both sides of the road. We nip into the circuit ground and eventually tie up with Spiersey, who leads us to the pits.
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  • Day1

    Made it to Circuit Zolder

    September 21, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ 🌬 15 °C

    We shoot into the pits, say a quick hello and head up to catch the briefing. James is there, and Lance. Then Luke and Henry. And Holly, Matt and Brian. And now our Ardingly Solar Aussie team are finally together again!

    The car is worked on, it goes out for some very successful test runs getting up to 71kph, an important screwdriver is lost. Solar car goes on.

    John and I check into our hotel for the night and then I go with Philip to set up his tent. The hotel is much nicer than the tent and didn't have a zip which is now falling apart.

    Back to the pits, dinner is a fairly uninspiring, lukewarm burger and reheated pasta. I didn't eat much...

    The car goes out for more testing between 20.00 - 22.00. It's now being tried out in the dark, too. And then back to our hotel for a quick glass of wine before bed.
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  • Day2

    Sat 1

    September 22, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    After a surprisingly extensive breakfast we liaise with Philip, who has had a chilly night in the broken zipped tent, and head off for necessities. He would like a hat, we need a screwdriver for the one that got lost yesterday and we need plastic and tape to try to waterproof the inside of the car. We can't find a screwdriver but a chisel blade has potential. We head back to the pits with our purchases.

    The chisel is seized upon, a handle is attached and a serviceable screwdriver is created. The team frantically cut up the plastic and tape it to the car under huge time pressure.

    And just minutes later they're at the start and it's three-two-one-rain! Rob outmanoeuvres a car which was trying to take an unfair advantage at the start and Ardingly Solar zooms off in front.

    The car's going very well but it's raining quite a lot so they're having to keep the speed down. Thank goodness they got that plastic in.

    Brian and Lance have created a very serviceable bench using one of the ramps and some plastic boxes.

    John and I nip off to check in to tonight's b&b down the road. And then stop for something to eat. Great chips but a luke warm burger... really???

    I get back to the pits just as Nick is pulling in with a puncture. The team leap into action, the wheel is changed and the condensation cleared off the windscreen. Nick headed out again.
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  • Day2

    Saturday contines

    September 22, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Nick and Holly pull in so that the wheel can be changed before the driver changeover. They then pull in further down the pits so that George and Marco can take over for the third two hour stint.

    An hour or so later a call comes in that we have another puncture. After a bit of a wait, the car is brought in by the rescue trailer. Once again, the team swing into action and it's only a few minutes until they're off on their way again.

    It's now 18.20. It's still wet and I'm getting cold. And then a call comes in from the car that the car's stopped. Are we out of battery or has the engine packed up? A few minutes later it drives in under it's own power... The decision is taken that after five and a half hours of driving it's time to recharge, which'll take about three hours.

    So now it's time to head down to the camp site for dinner, before John's stint ending around 01.00. Another lukewarm burger. It's raining solidly now and everywhere is cold and damp. After a long couple of hours a group of us decide to go back to the pits. At least it's warmer and dryer up here. Warmer, not warm I hasten to add.

    There's a flurry of activity, the car's charged up, it has to drive almost the full length of the track to get back for the changes but at 22.10 it is finally on it's way again, with Lance at the wheel with James riding shotgun.

    The plan's changed now. John's off duty until 4am now when he's needed for the battery recharge, so we're able to head back to our b&b for an earlier night than expected.
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  • Day3


    September 23, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Knowing there's a 03.15 start, of course I don't sleep well. John's alarm goes off but just as he's about to shower I pick up a call from Philip requesting John's presence right now. He hurls his clothes on and leaves about a minute behind Alexi, who has obviously got the same call. I snuggle down but still don't sleep.

    John's back about 05.30, leaving Philip on the graveyard shift.

    We breakfast and are back in the pits by about 09.30, just catching another driver change. It's busy down here now, the music's up and there a bit of a party atmosphere. Just two and a quarter hours to go...

    One hour and forty five minutes left and it's the final driver change. Luke and Holly jump out, the condensation is wiped off again and Rob and Lucy are back in for the final stint. Lights and horn are checked annnnnd 3, 2, 1 and they're off for the last time.

    Less than an hour left, time's ticking on. The Basking Beastie is still going. Excitingly, we overtake the French just in front of the pits.

    Now there are only five minutes left...

    ....and the Basking Beastie is over the line to great excitement. Then follows a rather slow lap of honour with two cars needing towing, a spirited happy birthday is sung to Lance by the whole team, a rather long awards presentation and a lot of clearing up by a severely depleted team.

    My trainer completely gives up the ghost so is lashed up by Marko using electrical tape and cable ties. Sigh...

    Back to camp for food. Burgers anyone? And a beer. It's still raining and everything is damp. John and I debunk to the hotel for an hour before heading to a really good fun after party.
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  • Day4

    Homeward bound

    September 24, 2018 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    After a welcome breakfast we check out of the hotel and head down to strike camp with Philip. Ardingly have just left. The car's packed, the tent binned and we're on our way. With luck, we'll get the earlier ferry at 14.00.

    It's trying to be sunny today. Typical after the wet weekend.

    Philip's navigating and decides on the ring road around Brussels due to traffic, which is infinitely preferable to the tunnels in my humble opinion... perversely, both John and Philip seemed to get a bit of a kick out of them!

    We stop for fuel. A German lady is bamboozled by the payment system and and asks for help. I spot the separate credit card machine and now John's bamboozled. A Frenchman sorts him out. We refuel and follow the invisible exit signs. Oops, almost the wrong direction on the motorway. We follow the invisible exit signs to the correct exit. A final look back shows the German lady still trying to get fuel...

    We stop at a 'Friterie' on an industrial estate just outside the port. Lunch is chips and, double yay, burgers!! We head into the port, are able to check into the earlier ferry, park briefly before boarding and parking the car three cars down in the adjacent line to Brian, Matt, Holly and Henry!

    The crossing is smooth so I feel much better on this crossing. We chat with the others, people snooze. We dock on schedule but have a longish wait to start disembarking.

    We're home soon after 17.00.
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