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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 15:31 GMT
Dog's disastrous day
Mad Dog, South Bank University
All hands help out - but can the car be fixed?
Martine Follain, who is with Britain's Mad Dog team competing in the 2001 World Solar Challenge in Australia, reports on a disastrous end to the second day of the famous trans-Australian race.

Disaster has struck: we have just had an accident and the car is severely damaged, although the driver is thankfully alright.

As I write this, we don't know whether we'll be able to repair the damage and continue the race, let alone finish it. As Mike Duke, team leader, said: "This could be the end of Mad Dog."

We were reaching the end of the second day and looking forward to stopping in Tennant Creek, close to 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from Darwin, when Mad Dog suddenly veered to the right and then to the left. The car went into a ditch at the side of the road.

Unfortunately, it crashed into a road sign, which destroyed a section of the solar array, half the electrical system and a side of the car. The observer (who sits with us all along the way) thought the cause might be side winds, which often whip across the road.

Mad Dog, South Bank University
The road sign did severe damage to the side of Mad Dog
The decision was made to trailer Mad Dog to the nearest roadhouse and work on the car for as long as it would take to try to repair it.

The accompanying vehicle of our Helios friends from France stopped to find out what was wrong and what they could do to help. They generously offered to work alongside us throughout the night if necessary, saying we had helped them back in the Darwin workshop and that they wouldn't be racing if it hadn't been for us.

What an impressive generosity of spirit in this race!

Looks like it's going to be a very long day. It started before 5am and the team will be catching whatever sleep it can in between shifts during the night. More soon about the work in progress...

Martine Follain is a communications officer with South Bank University's Mad Dog team. BBC News Online will be following the progress of Mad Dog throughout the World Solar Challenge.

Map, BBC

It is a very competitive race at the front of the World Solar Challenge.

The Dutch Nuna car held the lead as vehicles pulled off the road to set up camp at the end of the second day.

The Dutch had come out on top after a tactical battle with Australian Aurora car. The Aussies ran "too fast, too early" and had to drop back into second place to conserve battery power.

Nuna is now parked by the side of the road about 60 km (37 miles) north of Alice Springs, with Aurora about 12 km (7 miles) behind.

The University of Michigan (US) vehicle M-Pulse is in third position, with Solar Motions (US) and the University of Missouri-Rolla (US) not far behind.

The race is approaching half-distance.

See also:

25 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Mad dog heads for the Sun
25 Oct 99 | Sci/Tech
Aussies win solar prize
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