AMES, Iowa -- It was about 100 degrees in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, the first day of racing at this year's Formula Sun Grand Prix. And just as expected, the heat worked in favor of Iowa State's Team PrISUm.
But it wasn't a perfect day of racing around Austin's F1 track for the solar car team. Early problems with the connection between the solar car's electric motor and rear wheel required lengthy repairs in the pits.
But once the team was back on track, the car's battery pack withstood the heat better than some competitors and the Iowa Staters started making up laps. By the end of the day, the team was in fourth place, five laps behind the leader.
"We closed the gap," said Joel Eakins, a senior from Grinnell who's majoring in accounting and finance and is the team's acting project director. "Our battery pack is more conducive to these high temperatures."
And so, while other teams struggled in the late afternoon heat, Team PrISUm's solar race car was running its best lap times.
Eakins said the team also took a fairly conservative approach to the first day of the three-day race. He expects the team will run a little harder on Friday and Saturday.
"This," he said, "is still going to be quite a challenge."