Leuven students win "World Solar Challenge" in Australia after unexpected end

The Agoria Solar Team with students from Leuven University has triumphed in the World Solar Challenge, a race for vehicles running on solar energy only. The team was the first to cross the finishline in Adelaide after five days of intense racing, setting a Belgian first. 

The race is dubbed the World Championship for solar vehicles, and saw 44 teams from 22 different countries participating. Teams had to cover a distance of 3,021 kilometres between Darwin, in the north of Australia, to Adelaide, in the south. 

Each team had to design the vehicle by themselves. They could start with a charged battery, but had to generate all the energy during the race via the car's solar system. The Dutch team of the TU Delft university looked set to take it, but their vehicle caught fire on the final day, which opened the door for the Belgians to win. It is not yet clear what caused the blaze, but the Dutch pilot escaped unharmed. 

"It really was quite a challenge", said Willem Jan Claes of the Belgian team. "There was a lot of sun this year, and we had the wind in the back, which made it a fast race. This implied extra risks, and it was crucial to avoid a crash. Our first challenge was to reach the finish, the second was to win it. We worked so hard for this for a whole year, and we will celebrate this for sure!" 

It was a fast race this year, and it was a challenge to avoid a crash