Boring = Good. Exciting = Bad.

…and this afternoon was pretty exciting for the Solar Miners.

We’ve already reported that the S&T Solar Car fought its way to the lead and held it for several hours, and that it took a driver change and tire swap to temporarily push them out of first. No worries there, because Solar Miner VIII was firing on all cells and batteries, and the team still had over two days of racing to go.

On top of that, Austin Holmsley scorched that track with a 4:49 over the 3.418-mile course, the best lap of the day. But maybe “scorched” was a bit prophetic…

Daytime temperatures “only” hit 97 today, but with barely a cloud in the sky that asphalt was burning hot. Current race leader Iowa State reported going through three complete sets of tires, and they believe it was due to overheated rubber compounds.

Shortly before 4:00 this afternoon Donovan Gibson took SMVIII out to finish the last two hours of the day. About 20 miles into his stint behind the wheel, things suddenly got exciting. Very exciting.

Donovan radioed to report a flat tire, but before race central could even ask “which tire?” he let out a fairly strong expletive and then went quiet. Oh, ****!!! was the reaction in the pits. Donovan then called in to say he’d spun out and was trying to assess any damage, while a flustered support crew grabbed tires, wheels, tools and whatever else they could think of and raced from the garage.
They lost another six or seven laps before they could replace the tire and limp the car back to the garage. Which, by the way, was full of Texas-based MSM/UMR/S&T alums who had gathered to cheer the team on.
Instant automotive triage, as over a dozen S&T engineers swarmed the car as ants to honey. Each subgroup sprung into action checking electrical, body, suspension and array damage as if they’d rehearsed the scenario dozens of times. No panic, no yelling, just measured determination and teamwork. While the EEs checked battery temps, MEs found that lateral forces warped all three wheels beyond repair and the brake rotors were badly bent. It took about DSC_5652 (1)30 minutes of well-managed mayhem, with 20-some engineering alums looking over their shoulders, to get the car back on the track for the last hour of the day.

Best assessment of the incident? Scorched tires.

Again, boring = good, excitement = bad.

Way too much excitement for one day.

And the alumni guests couldn’t be more proud!