The Michigan Solar Car Team won its fourth national championship last Wednesday, beating the University of Minnesota’s team by just twelve minutes.

Chelsea Trull
Team Momentum members raise the first-place trophy toward the sun in Calgary, Alberta after winning the 2,500-mile North American Solar Challenge last Wednesday. The team made the trip in 53 hours, 59 minutes, 43 seconds and set a record by averaging a sp

The 11-day race was kicked off in Austin, Texas and finished in Calgary, Canada.

The 2,500-mile North American Solar Challenge — which is the longest solar car race in the world — was full of ups and downs for Michigan’s Team Momentum, including bad weather, car problems, race penalties, and a neck-and-neck race against Minnesota.

Engineering senior and team member Brent Schwartz, said that the team’s reward was crossing the finish line.

“Coming to the end there in Calgary … just as the car crossed the line, we knew that we won,” Schwartz said. “Everyone was so thrilled. That was probably the biggest highlight of the race.”

Michael Brackney, a Business junior and project manager for Momentum, said the team had every intention of winning the national championship from the day it began to design the car two years ago.

“It was a very good conclusion to two very long years of work,” Brackney said. “It was everything we had wanted.”

The night before Wednesday’s victory, the team’s lead was in jeopardy when it was given 40 penalty minutes for speeding violations.

An emergency 55-page appeal comprised of data, charts, graphs and maps from team members was quickly written to dispute the penalties, which were subsequently retracted from 40 minutes to four.

“If those penalties would have stood we would have been half an hour behind Minnesota. Instead we were 12 minutes ahead,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz added that he thought the race was one of the closest in solar car racing history.

For Brackney, the most intense moment in the race was the last day, with Minnesota’s team close behind.

“The University of Minnesota was literally only a few hundred feet behind us. Any little mistake that we would have made would have cost us the race, but luckily we ran pretty much flawlessly,” Brackney said.

Preparation for the race began two years ago when the team began to design the car for the first time. The students on the team worked from the design stage, through construction, until race day.

“We started out from scratch,” Brackney said. “Everything an auto manufacturer would have to go through, we went through.”

Next on the agenda for Momentum is the World Solar Challenge in Australia this September.

Schwartz, who designed the electric and power distribution systems in the car, said he had high expectations for Momentum at the world championship.

“It’s going to be a very different race … there’s no speed limits, there’s a lot more sun, it’s a lot flatter,” Schwartz said. “I expect us to do very well.”

In the past two years, Michigan has placed third at the world race behind two professional teams.

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