Team PrISUm launches big comeback; finishes third in close Formula Sun Grand Prix


Driving a solar race car at the Formula Sun Grand Prix is hard, hot work. Larger image. Photo by Team PrISUm.

AMES, Iowa -- Team PrISUm turned a race-high 78 laps on Saturday, nearly storming back for the Formula Sun Grand Prix title.

But the comeback effort fell two laps short. Over three days of racing, Iowa State's solar car team completed 191 laps of the 3.4-mile F1 race track in Austin, Texas. Race-winner Oregon State completed 193 laps and second-place Illinois State completed 192.

Joel Eakins, a senior from Grinnell who's majoring in accounting and finance and is the team's acting project director, said the team's car was just five seconds from completing its 192nd lap when the race ended.

"I'm happy enough," Eakins said after the race. "We had the best, most consistent day of anyone."

Indeed. Team PrISUm started the day 18 laps behind the leader.

But the team's student-engineers avoided previous problems with a rear hub connection by going to their back-up plan for tire changes. It took a few minutes longer, but that was much better than a few hours in the pits trying to remove and repair the hub.

"If we had done that right away yesterday, we would have won," Eakins said.

But, even with a big deficit, the team kept racing. The result was the most laps in a day and the fastest lap of the entire race.

And so the team will accept a third-place trophy.

Team members were hoping for better.

"I'm happy," Eakins said. "But I wish everybody could have seen our car was the best."