WSC: Challenger class charts

Based on data from the WSC web site, the final race chart above (click to zoom) shows Challenger-class timings (for the cars that did not trailer). It is drawn with reference to a baseline speed of 83.89 km/h. This is the speed that would complete the race (to “end of timing”) in 4 days and 5 hours. The left vertical axis shows how far behind the baseline cars are driving. Straight lines represent cars driving at a consistent speed. The right vertical axis shows arrival time at “end of timing” in Darwin time (Adelaide time is an hour later). The twists and turns of the lines here reveal many of the dramatic events of the race, such as the spate of bad weather. The chart below shows average speeds.

38 thoughts on “WSC: Challenger class charts

  1. Since changes to the regulations were bought in to make the challenge harder, which they clearly have, it is useful to look back at 2013, when 10 cars finished, to see exactly how effective the changes have been.
    I’m sure that Tony could make a nice graph but in the meantime.

    Ignoring team names and just comparing positions(to the nearest hour only) I have found the following – all but 1 were slower.
    1st place in 2017 was 4 hours slower than 1st in 2013, the 2nd car was 3 hours slower, 3rd = 2 hrs, 4th = same, 5th = 1 hr, 6th = 4 hrs, 7th = 4hrs, 8th = 5 hrs, 9th = 5hrs and 10th = 2 hrs.
    In addition a further two cars finished the course this year just an hour later than 10th place.

    My own conclusion from this is that the regulations were just about perfectly pitched, given normal improvements it would seem that the teams will get back to 2013 performance levels within another couple of events.
    We can see that the top cars chasing Nuon have indeed gained ground whilst the next level have more or less maintained the gap to the top teams. Throw in the adverse effect of the severe weather which evidently affected those at the back more and, indeed, we might have found that they all gained a little ground.

    A word on the relegation of teams to Adventure class which seems to have caused quite a stir, it’s just semantics. Cars were always out of the race as soon as they had trailered. The only difference is that in the past we were fed a little, often incorrect, data about how far the teams had driven which served to confuse rather than inform.

    Data on trailering is just about impossible for the officials to collate promptly whilst the event is in motion so if followers wish to be kept up to date I suggest that they impress upon the teams that desire. They are the ones who often have the means to broadcast the information and should also know exactly what they have done. Of course some teams who have trailered like to maintain the illusion that they are competing and we later find that they actually drove next to no miles in their car.

    I guess I’m saying congratulations to WSC, you got it right! NOW how will you sort out the Cruisers?

  2. As we started post BWSC analyses, interpretations, opinions, possible explanations and ideas for the future, I am wondering where the deciding differences have been this year to differentiate the teams.

    First of all, comparing with 2015, we have a top 5 that clearly stands out; this year with Nuon almost in a class of it’s own.

    We have seen the high performance of the MJ arrays, but both Twente and Tokai were not that far behind to explain all or even most of it. Tokai has the top-of-the-line Panasonic cells and Twente may have made a difference with their home developed Sabine 2 system. But after they explained how that worked 2 years ago, I can’t imagine that there are teams who haven’t reverse engineered it and were using that too this time around. Punch claimed wind advantage with their wheels positioning, but also Nuon reported after the race that they had been sailing segments while charging more energy than they were using.

    Of course the challenge is a matter of many different elements. Topics like reliability, the ability to fix problems fast (and design to enable that!), teamwork, strategy and making sure you have all the right data available to make your decisions can make the differences between winning or ending in 5th place.

    Is it the way the top 5 cars are designed and built? After so many years of sharing experiences in designing and building, mostly after the race, other teams should be able to get their carbon and structural work done close enough to the top 5 teams to not be that far behind. Surprisingly the much larger weight of Novum (why it needed to be so heavy we don’t know) has not bothered it do do so well. It may even have been an advantage in the strong winds, giving it the stability that allowed Michigan to drive faster safely than perhaps Kogakuin. You wonder how fast Kogakuin could have been with a smaller MJ-based wing?

    Maybe teams outside the top 5 have been less capable to get everything out of their electronics.
    Or maybe they have not mastered the details of great aero design and build as well as the top teams have.
    But most likely it is the synergy of all these hundreds of things coming together in teams with the history, dedication, support and ambition to not be OK with some of all these elements being 92% perfect, but demanding from themselves to get every single one above 98%.

    Good to see teams like WSU taking big steps forward. I hope Stanford will find their way back to where they were before. In 2015 Kecskemet jumped right into the top 7 in their first BWSC with a well designed and built car. So there should be enough hope for teams to do their homework and challenge the current top 5 in 2019.

    And let’s not forget the marketing teams doing a great job in involving the world in the event and getting the word out there not only for their teams and the sponsors but also for the higher goal of building a more sustainable world.

    • The weight element was really strange with Novum, and when I look at interior shots of their car, its clear that the additional weight was not on purpose. They are just not as good in carbonfiber work. I really hope they improve, and maybe get some help from their Formula SAE team, who seem to have better grips with composites.

      Teams really dont share that much at the end of the race in my experience, its just all eye level stuff thats really obvious, they don’t share techniques used.

      Nuon had a great car this year, almost flawless. Its gonna be really hard to beat this car in the future. I hope Twente come back, but I have my doubts. Bit disappointed with the lack of innovation, and their body this year. But they always impress with other features of their car, especially electronics (by far the best at the race). Its unfortunate that they do not have the financial muscle to keep up with Delft, they seem to be they only team that can really give them a run for their money. Tokai cant seem to live up to their two wins in 2009 and 2011. Almost makes me think that they just had far superior cells those years. Last year their body was shambles. I like their innovation this year. But they were bad as a unit. Didnt seem to know control stop rules (not running to table), lost minutes compared to competition. As a team they were just not as good, came to Australia really late, their body and most mechanical elements are made by an external company and it really showed, they did not know their way around the car. Almost dropped it taking out of the trailer once.

      I expected a bit better from Kogakuin. They had a awesome car this year, my favourite by far, and they proved two years ago that they were good. I guess if you design so radical, it can be hit or miss. I expect them back next race, and theyll be in the top 5.

      Kecskemet is really an exception. For years they have competed at the very top in the Shell Eco Marathon. Their car, Megameter, is one of the most efficient gasoline cars in the world (something like 2600+ km/L of gasoline). They actually took a year off this race and focused on the WSC. This was a well structured team with a lot of knowledge in automotive, mechanics, composites and electronics before joining WSC.

      I also think that Cambridge needs to take a hard look at CEUR. While I support them and their innovation, its borderline embarrassing for the University. And its damaging their reputation. The amount of failure/crashes they have had prior to races is extreme, and its definitely systematic at this point. They also dont seem to be moving forward in development, and I cannot see them crack the top 8 any time soon.

      • The Nuon car this year was like someone started with a block of carbon fibre, and then removed every gram that didn’t contribute to the goal of driving really fast. It was, as you say, an almost flawless car. Their race performance was also close to flawless, as with their 10-minute roadside suspension repair.

        As to Twente, if it wasn’t for a few big delays (the starting grid position towards the end of the pack and the 30-minute penalty towards the end), their car could easily have come third. It was an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary design, but a very fast car nonetheless. This year there was no single “optimum” design.

    • What kind of rule changes would you like to see for 2019?

      I for one would like to make the cells equal. Everyone gets the same cells. You shouldn’t be winning the race cause you can buy the best cells.

      • Solar cells restrictions will not be easy because a main element of the solar challenge is that it is also a design competition with the purpose to encourage innovations in the use of solar energy. Obviously the solar cells play an important part in that. To exclude the most efficient cells from the competition would perhaps challenge teams and their solar cells providers to get the most out of Si cells, but not push developments in other types.
        I understand the cost element but I see more in slightly tweaking the ratios than giving everyone the same cells. Even stating that all teams can only use Si panels will not accomplish that because some Si cells are much better than others and will not be available for everyone.
        And after all, like has been said before, Twente and maybe also Tokai could very well have ended in the top 3 this year with their design solutions and innovations while using an Si panel.

      • I’m not sure about everyone having the same cells but I would agree with banning GaAs, purely for financial reasons.
        That said though, I’m not totally convinced that the complete result was due to the type of cells used. As Tony says, Twente lost time – 43 minutes to Punch and 39 minutes to Michigan – due to the penalty and the starting position. Since they were 40 minutes behind Michigan at the end they clearly had a chance to finish second again ahead of two of the GaAs cars.

        Other rules I’d like to see altered slightly.

        Remove any ambiguity about groundsheets by either banning them altogether, putting a “pass” label on the teams’ groundsheets in Darwin, or providing the teams with one which is acceptable.

        Sharpen up the registration process at control stops, would it really be impossible for the CS Steward to stand beside the car and driver to start the timing rather than the driver having to sprint to a desk?

        Limit the size of the teams on the road, is it really necessary to have upwards of 40 people to run a car? I would have thought that 20 – 25 people should be adequate.
        It is a common source of ridicule that an event purporting to advance theories of sustainability are responsible for burning so much fossil fuel during the event.

        Allow more generous control stop opening times, perhaps based on distance to Adelaide. A spurious reference is made in the regulations to cars being able to maintain 60 km/h on the road but as just one example, if we took a cut off time for finishing of 3pm on the Saturday of the race, at 60 km/h Kulgera is 21hrs from the finish yet the Control Stop closed 25hrs before 3pm Sat.

        Re Cambridge, the University has very little interaction with the CUER team and the WSC seems to be very low on their list of priorities, which is understandable given everything else that goes on there. It is a great shame, to me in particular, that they have never managed to produce a competitive car(or even one that completes the distance) but as someone who has a little knowledge of the situation there I can understand why. Incidentally I’m sure that it is no co-incidence that MIT, of late, has a very similar record.
        One thing for sure though, having been in existence for over 800 years, through religious reformation, civil wars and world wars, a solar car crash will not trouble the institution too much.

    • I agree with others that Twente did not bad aside of bad luck/stupidity with the external assets – on top of the delay and energy needed for overtaking they came under bad weather sooner then the top teams.
      So organisational ground sheets is one for me too, as is earlier testing with the GPS device. The Control stop timer thing makes sense to me too. (A line with a receiver and a tracker on the car, or laser timing How hard can this be? Make it a student project for a university?)

      I also agree on longer control stops; teams (especially cruiser class) that have mechanical trouble or time penalties in the beginning of the race have practically no time build up a time buffer.
      (If Eindhoven had their dashboard break at the start, even they could have been out on the first day. )
      I do think we have seen far less time penalties and repairs overall?

      I would like to see Thin-Film be added to the allowed cells; given price and weight it is the only one we can realistically expect to see on cars in non-desert area’s.

      Not sure setting team member limits will matter; the top teams will move out their media teams to ‘independent’ teams, and perhaps their weather teams on paper too. It would also be unfair to students that helped with building the car not to be allowed to participate in the race.

      I also would like to see the Cruiser class start using their old cars as Support vehicles, but i’m not sure how that can be enforced.
      And I would like a different class for Trucks; several media teams mentioned the Road trains (not) going electric. But they have a lot of surface area on the roof. So once they are rolling, how much energy is needed to keep them in motion?
      Start off with empty trucks with rolling start

      And next time another Dutch team may enter; A collaboration from collages (in Dutch: Hogeschool; literally ‘High School’ but actually collage level) and companies in our northern region has announced desire to participate.

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