Bridgestone’s Ecopia with ologic tyres proved their worth in the Sasol Solar Challenge, with two of the Bridgestone-shod cars taking a podium place.
The race, which ended in Cape Town on October 1, saw numerous teams take to the roads in various classes of electric vehicles, covering a route of more than 4500 kilometres.
The first Bridgestone car home was the Tokai Challenger, in second place, having narrowly lost out on overall victory to the Nuon team. The Tokai team, which has won both the World Solar Challenge and the South African event on several occasions in the past, was neck-and neck with top contenders at the halfway mark, but lost ground to the Nuon team in the final days of the event.
Third place went to the Bridgestone-sponsored Hungarian MegaLux car. While the first and second-placed cars were separated by a narrow gap, the MegaLux car finished 511 km behind the Tokai Challenger, with the gap to fourth place a further 508km.
“The Sasol Solar Challenge was a long race, over 4700km, compared to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge distance of 3000km,” said Bridgestone South Africa General Manager Marketing: Consumer, Patrick Leslie. “It was a real test of durability and the engineering prowess of the designers.”
It wasn’t plain sailing for the drivers either. Strong, gusty winds proved a handful in the Eastern Cape, as Bridgestone South Africa’s home town of Port Elizabeth lived up to its reputation as the ‘Windy City’. With peak wind speeds being measured at over 50 km/h, the drivers had a real fight on their hands to keep control of vehicles weighing less than 200kg.
The buffeting of the winds also affected efficiency, an important factor with the teams vying to break the Tokai team’s distance record of 4630km. The record, which was set on the 2012 Sasol Solar Challenge, was eventually bettered by 86km in the 2016 event. Bridgestone’s Ecopia with ologic tyres played an important part in overall efficiency for the teams using them. The tyres, with their tall stance and high inflation pressure, are optimised for reduced rolling resistance to improve efficiency, and have been fitted as OEM equipment to BMW’s i3 electric car for several years.
“From here, the focus moves to the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2017,” said Leslie. “The tough South African leg has given all the teams plenty of data to refine their designs ahead of their attempts to take the world crown next,” he concluded.