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Borealis III crosses the finish line Wednesday at the University of Calgary.

In front of a throng of cheering spectators, Borealis III crosses the finish line in second place at the University of Calgary. Borealis III had the lead on numerous occasions during the 2005 North American Solar Challenge, but wasn't able to overcome an 11-minute deficit heading into the final day of racing.

U finishes second in solar car race

By Rick Moore

Published on July 27, 2005

In an event laced with intrigue and high drama, the University of Minnesota's Borealis III wound up finishing second by about 11 minutes to the University of Michigan's car today in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge, a 2,500-mile race for solar-powered vehicles.

It was the second straight runner-up finish for the University at the biennial race. In the 2003 North American Solar Challenge, Borealis II finished second by a margin of about four hours to a car from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Throughout this year's 11-day event, which began on July 17 in Austin, Texas, crossed the width of the United States through Minnesota, and traversed western Canada to Calgary, the lead changed hands on several occasions, with the Minnesota, Michigan, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), and the University of Missouri-Rolla all in first place for portions of the race. However, Borealis III and Michigan's car, Momentum, were the primary leaders.

Borealis III held a 27-minute lead over Michigan on Sunday morning heading into the second-to-last leg of the race from Winnipeg to Medicine Hat, Alberta. But Michigan reached Medicine Hat some 38 minutes earlier than the U on Monday, meaning it had a lead of about 11 minutes with one stage to go.

That's when the drama began. On Tuesday, race officials penalized the Michigan team 40 minutes for speeding (cars are not allowed to go faster than 65 mph or the posted speed limit), putting Minnesota in first place by nearly a half hour. But after a Michigan appeal, the officials rescinded the penalty, giving Momentum the advantage heading into today's final stage, which ended in front of a sizable crowd at the Olympic oval (1988 winter Olympics) on the campus of the University of Calgary. Michigan and Minnesota ran neck-and-neck for most of the morning, with Momentum edging out Borealis III at the finish to keep its final winning margin of about 11 minutes. Rounding out the top five after Minnesota were MIT, the University of Missouri-Rolla, and the University of Waterloo (Ontario).

"We're really proud," said Trevre Andrews, the U's solar car project manager, after the race. "We couldn't have done anything more, other than catch a few [more green lights]."

Andrews said he was impressed with the fan support the teams received all along the route and especially in Canada. "The people have come out in hordes to see these vehicles and the impact they could make on renewable energy," he said. "There were more than 1,000 people waiting for us when we arrived in Calgary."

A team of 46 University of Minnesota undergraduate students, using a wide array of interdisciplinary technologies, created and refined Borealis III over the past 19 months. Nineteen of those students were involved with the race as part of the road team.

To read more about Borealis III and the U's Solar Vehicle Project, visit The ra(y)ce is on.?

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