ASC log 7/11/12: The Sixteenth Day

Racing on the Monticello Motor Club track – currently passing OSU’s Phoenix.


Today is the day. After almost a week of toil, we finally made it out onto the track! With our horn test and our brake test over with at long last, we set up camp by the track and watched as Derek, Jack, and I made our way around the loop again and again. We each did about 30+ laps, myself finishing the day by pulling in at 4 PM, having clocked Impulse’s 109th lap around the track – we needed 105 today to qualify. WE’RE GOING TO ASC!


Our team was ecstatic that despite missing the entire first day, driving slowly and carefully to conserve our short supply of tires, and getting onto the track later than other teams in the morning, we still qualified with time and tires to spare. The perfect weather conditions probably helped a lot with that – it was sunny and cool all day long. We will probably not even drive tomorrow – since we are already qualified, and there is little to no chance we will place in FSGP, we can just sit tight and not risk getting into an accident or needlessly burning through tires.


As for my experience driving, it was a lot of fun – before I had only ever driven on flat, straight, 1-lane public roads, and in a full caravan no less, which feels restricting. Here I was in complete control. I got to control my own speed, figure out the most efficient ways to take corners and go up and down hills, I passed other teams, I got passed, and I posed for cameras that took pictures as I drove by. I could see the advantages and disadvantages of the other teams on the road first hand – for instance, Iowa’s car was fast but it lost power quickly due to its small battery pack, so even though it passed us in the morning, we started passing it later in the day. Other cars were small and quick but took corners poorly, like MIT’s.


The whole day went spectacularly, not a single hitch. We had to change a tire but that was expected – most all teams had to change multiple throughout the day. This was definitely one of the best days of my ASC experience so far. And what better way to top off the day than with FREE FOOD! As the teams left the track and started setting up to charge their arrays, University of Michigan set up a food station coming out of their massive semi. They had hot dogs, chips, cookies, drinks, and cereal that they gave out to all of the other teams.


While snacking on UM’s wealth and generosity, we went around and talked to other teams about their cars as they sat and charged. We discovered that Michigan State qualified for FSGP, and will be driving out on the track tomorrow. This was super impressive to us, because their car is the ghetto-est car we’d ever seen, and was half built during scrutineering itself.


As we packed up to go back to the hotel, we received our first bit of bad news for the day – we failed our caravan check! Basically what this means is that we need to go shopping for supplies for our caravan. This is fine, because we have all day tomorrow and all we need is some cones and radios.


That night, instead of cooking food, we rewarded ourselves by going out and indulging in some delicious Wendy’s. Don’t judge us – after having hastily-cooked-in-the-dark-on-a-budget food for the past week, eating some fast food was actually really good. I myself ordered 5 chicken sandwiches and 2 small fries off the dollar menu and had a tasty and filling meal for $7, blowing everybody else’s meals out of the water.


We laughed and joked and relaxed for the rest of the night. This was the goal for which we had worked so hard and traveled so far – the privilege of competing in the American Solar Challenge. The first time our team has competed in this race for many years, far longer than anyone had been on the team. Things looked really bleak for the past few days, as we kept running into brick walls. Brick walls cannot stop us. We will crash through them.

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