The Last Day

Alex drives the car over the starting line and prepares to climb the hill to turn one.

Alex drives the car over the starting line and prepares to climb the hill to turn one.

Apologies for the late post, the team has been busy returning to London and catching up on some much needed sleep. The last day of racing had arrived and Sunstang was hard at work getting the replacement battery pack assembled and into the car. There was no talk of throwing in the towel just the sound of everyone pitching in for the team in order to get back on the track. By noon the team had the car assembled once again, camel-backs were filled, radios turned on and Alex was driving the car out of the garage and back onto the track. The team lined the pit lane as he began gaining speed and heading towards the towering hill at the end of the pits. Perhaps moving a bit more sluggish from the extra 60 Kg of batteries the car began working its way up the hill; looking like an ant compared to the mountain it climbed. But despite the weight, the black form of the car glided over the top of the hill and around the corner out of sight.

Things were looking up for the team as they watched the car cross the finish line for a second lap; then a third and a fourth and a fifth. With each new lap the team’s excitement grew yet with each successful climb of the hill the feeling of success never faded. But this was not meant to last as at the end of the fifth lap the driver Alex saw wisps of smoke rising over the steering wheel. A moment of panic swept the team as they looked on as Alex threw open the canopy at the start of the pit lane and leapt from the car. Soon everyone was running towards the car, fire extinguishers in hand, fearing the worst. But these wisps of smoke turned out to be simply a fried Arduino in the steering wheel, a simple fix.

The team puts the finishing touches on the car after replacing the blown batteries.

The team puts the finishing touches on the car after replacing the blown batteries.

This simple fix soon turned out to be a more difficult problem than initially thought. The board was shorting when in contact with the steering wheel interior and eventually the board had been removed from the wheel and taped to its outside. As race time quickly ticked away a temporary Band-Aid solution was all that could be done. A new driver, Jeremy, was quickly into the car and gliding down the pits bound for the track once again. As with every lap before the entire team watched with bated breath as the car rose up the hill and smiled as he climbed the mountain once again, but that success did not last long as mid-lap Jeremy saw the board burn-up once again. He was soon stranded on the track.

With only a short while before the race officially ended that was the last time on the track for SunStang at FSGP 2017. However, despite the challenges of failing batteries and steering wheels, or the heat and sun which beamed down on everyone all week, the team was extremely proud of what had been accomplished and enjoyed their time in Austin. The team had qualified for the race unlike the team’s last trip south, and completed multiple laps without pushing the car over the hill. Compared the old car, stuck on the hill and without a lap to its name, this year was much more successful and a good building block for the team. From this past week, the team can go back and correct small issues such as the shorted steering wheel, something which will make this car much more successful in the future. As well, looking forward this has been an excellent learning experience for the whole team as they begin to plan out the design of a whole new vehicle.

The team poses with the car at the end of the event. A week of hard work pays off as SunStang reached the track on two of the three race days.

The team poses with the car at the end of the event. A week of hard work pays off as SunStang reached the track on two of the three race days.

All in all, FSGP 2017 has been another amazing adventure and one that everyone on the team who travelled down south will always remember. We welcome you to continue following the team as we look to expand on our successes and learn from our mistakes to further grow as a team. After all, the sun never sets on SunStang.

Better Late Than Never

Daniel Woodside, the team's project manager, works on the back-up battery box as the day draws to a close.

Daniel Woodside, the team's project manager, works on the back-up battery box as the day draws to a close.

The team had an early start to the day in order to finish getting the car prepared for dynamics testing. Everyone watched on as Jeremy slalomed down the parking lot and slammed on the brakes for the brake test. While the car was 0.3 seconds too slow in the brake test the team still received blue status in dynamics, meaning the battery protection system (BPS) was all that separated the team from the track although with a 5 lap penalty. Shortly after the team re-tested the BPS and received another green status; finally the vehicle was cleared to race on the track. 

Excitement was high as the the top of the car was attached and sealed; driver and ballast entered the car; radios were turned on and driver water bottles filled. Just as the garage door began to open everyone realized that perhaps they were all a little too excited. A single switch inside the car had been left un-switched and the top was removed one again. After a thorough check everything was in order the car was sealed a second time. As the door slowly rose and sunlight crept underneath, the suspense of watching the car climb the hill for the first time climbed as well. 

With Jeremy in the cockpit the car slowly crept up the pit lane, picking up speed faster and faster. Followed by the cheers of everyone watching on the car slowly rose up the hill barely faltering. Where other cars had slowed down to a crawl Jeremy smoothly drove past; cresting the hill and completing SunStang's first lap at the Circuit of the Americas. With a lap time of 5:26 the team had one of the fastest laps of the race so far, a big change from the day before sitting in the garage with the car up on blocks.

A second lap quickly followed the first but then disaster struck. With the motor making funny noises at full throttle the car pulled into the pit and couldn't be turned back on. Heading back into the garage the team saw the damage as the battery pack was swung open; a third of the cells were severely under-voltage. All of the damaged cells had to be placed in a salt bath to fully discharge and the team had to move to plan B, the lead-acid batteries. 

Throughout the afternoon and evening the team has been working to replace systems with new ones for the emergency battery pack. With an extra early start to the morning tomorrow the team is hoping to be back on the track shortly after the race begins for the third and final day. For anyone who is in Austin or the surrounding are tomorrow and is planning on attending the public day we look forward to talking to you and hope you can see our car race along the track along side us!

Trials and Tribulations

The car performing the figure 8 test at dynamics.

The car performing the figure 8 test at dynamics.

The first day of racing is in the books but unfortunately SunStang was still dealing with motor and battery problems. In the morning, the team got half-way through dynamics before a battery module went bad and the team had to return to the garage. At that point the team still required green status in dynamics, driver operation, lights and vision, body and sizing and the battery protection system in order to get on the track.

Throughout the afternoon the team worked on fixing the major motor problem affecting the relays in the car. There were moments where everything seemed to work before suddenly stopping again; the cause of multiple moments of frustration for everyone in the garage. As other teams started counting laps the SunStang crew worked furiously to be able to get back to dynamics to finish the brake and slalom tests.

As the day stretched on it seemed that every fix to the car created a new problem to deal with; keeping the team busy all afternoon. The group watched as other teams began heading back to their hotels at the end of the day, soaking wet from the torrential rain in the late afternoon, while we continued to work away at the vehicle. However, slowly progress became visible as first the motor would work for small stretches before operating faster and longer every test. As night crept upon the team they were in the parking lot jogging alongside the car, dodging puddles as they went, building excitement with each test being more successful than the last. 

The cars lined up for the start of the first day of racing. Hopefully SunStang is in this picture for tomorrow's driving.

The cars lined up for the start of the first day of racing. Hopefully SunStang is in this picture for tomorrow's driving.

Finally, in the last test drive of the night the team's car pulled out of the garage and purred down the parking lot and back. With smiles on everyone's faces the team drove back into the garage, cleaned-up shop and went home for the night. With an early start tomorrow morning SunStang is hoping to be done dynamics and obtaining green in every scrutineering station before tomorrow afternoon so we can join the other teams out on the track. 

Ups and Downs

The top of the car sits in the garage with the protective sheeting freshly peeled off. There's nothing like a brand new and shiny array. 

The top of the car sits in the garage with the protective sheeting freshly peeled off. There's nothing like a brand new and shiny array. 

SunStang experienced a rollercoaster of emotion throughout the third day of scrutineering. The team has now successfully completed 5 of the 10 stations and had partially completed another 3. However, these are easily fixed and won't pose too much of an issue. However, the team ran into battery and motor issues today and as such were not able to go through dynamic testing. The team is hoping to have these fixed tomorrow morning and be able to go through dynamic testing and be upgraded to green status for the final 5 stations.

Despite these pitfalls the team is still in good spirits and enjoying the competition. While disappointed to not be able to get on the track for the start of racing it is still very possible to be racing by the late afternoon or first thing tomorrow morning. 

Outside of scrutineering the team was able to see the track for the first time as we took part in the driver tour. For many of the team members this was the first time seeing the track and it was exciting to see how we'd truly be driving the same track as F1. With those thoughts still fresh in everyone's mind we are eagerly waiting to get back to the track tomorrow for another hard of work.

 

Chipping Away

Setting up for the solar array scrutineering

Setting up for the solar array scrutineering

Day two of competition is in the books and SunStang is ahead of schedule and doing well! Despite not expecting to go through scrutineering until tomorrow the team was able to attend 6 of the 10 stations this afternoon. As a result, we are halfway towards dynamic testing; the most difficult and final part of getting on the track. 

 

The team watched on as the solar array was tested, providing us with valuable data and IV curves for our panels. The vehicle's mechanical and electrical systems were also inspected and nothing out of the ordinary was found. Finally, the driver's were registered and the car's visibility was examined. Much to the team's excitement, no major issues were found and only a few minor fixed are needed.

The one speed bump encountered was with the team's battery protection system. However, after a couple of hours of troubleshooting the bugs have been stamped out and it should pass scrutineering with flying colours tomorrow. 

The team's hard work was rewarded at the end of the day with Fourth of July fireworks as we wrapped up work for the night. Despite the persistent hot weather the team is still in good spirits and enjoying their time in Austin. It was beyond gratifying to start to see the years hard work result in success as FSGP and we hope that success continues tomorrow and into the race days later this week.

Welcome to the Circuit of the Americas

The car fresh out of the trailer and into the Austin sun with some Canadian and Western pride.

The car fresh out of the trailer and into the Austin sun with some Canadian and Western pride.

SunStang started the day off bright and early with anticipation of the first day of FSGP 2017. Getting to the track for 8am registration the team started the day off with team meetings before getting to see our garage and unloading the trailer.

The competition had officially kicked off and right away the numerous garages were bustling with the 18 solar teams trying to get ready for scrutineering. This was the first introduction to solar car racing for 5 of the 7 team members who travelled down to Austin, and they got to finally witness the fervor of competition and the build up to the first day of racing.

With SunStang not having any scrutineering until Wednesday, the team began polishing up the car; Western and Canada flags were hung then the team got to work finishing the many small tasks that were required before we could take to the track. The day was spent constantly working on the car while occasionally taking respite from the 37 degree weather, a stark change to the weather back north of the border.

The team's view from the pit lane. Certainly nothing to complain about with the weather or the view!

The team's view from the pit lane. Certainly nothing to complain about with the weather or the view!

Finally, after a long day in the sun the team cleaned up and closed down the garage for the night. Yet despite the hard work put in all day there was already excited chatter over dinner of what was to be worked on tomorrow. 

The team is looking forward to the rest of the week and seeing the car successfully pass scrutineering and make it onto the track come Thursday. Check back again tomorrow for further updates on the team and how our second day at the track goes!

And It Begins!

2,400 km later the SunStang team has arrived in Austin, Texas! Despite a lengthy 32 hour drive down the team is in good spirits and looking forward to getting started bright and early tomorrow morning. After collecting the final team members from the airport the group of 7 has begun making plans for the first day of FSGP 2017. We will be updating this blog after every day at the track to keep all of our followers back home up to date with the team's progress and success. Check back tomorrow to see how the team is faring after the first day of competition! Can't wait to see everyone at Circuit of the Americas!