Saturday, July 19, 2008

On with the race

Now I am reporting to you from Fargo, North Dakota. Traveling on the solar car race we have kept to a steady pace, and have been around the 9th/10th position for the last few days. That is out of the 15 cars that are in the race, but considering that this is UK's first car to qualify for the North American Solar Challenge, we are all very excited with our position. Two nights ago we stopped for the day next to a sod farm.

Today, we were making great headway on our way to Fargo. That is, until, we hit a massive pothole in the road. After the hit, our driver, Nick, pulled to the side reporting he believed that he had a flat tire. When we took the shell off the car, what we saw was much worse.

That connecting rod that that is being held in the above photo should be straight. It is a solid 1/2 inch diameter rod that transfers the wheel's vibrations to the shock to the left of the picture. In our analysis of that part, it should have been able to handle some of the toughest shocks... well we had a heck of a shock for it...

That is Nick sticking over half of his hand straight into that crack, we were just happy that he was okay.

Well the trouble with this situation was that we did not have any spares to replace that rod. We needed something, anything that would fit, but it also needed to have a particular type of threaded holes in order to insert the appropriate rod ends. Getting the rod was easy enough, we just got a steel rod from Lowe's. But drilling and tapping threads into the
ends was going to be something else entirely, especially with our limited tools. This is where the story gets pretty amazing.

We were in the parking lot in the dark behind the motel with our solar car on stands ready to get to work. Several people stopped by to ask us about the car, as usual whenever we set up in a public place. But this time we were desperate to get something done, and it just so happened that when one gentleman and his girlfriend stopped by on their motorcycle, Nick popped his head out of the trailer and yelled, do you have a metal lathe? To our
astonishment, he said he was a machinist and a racer! We told him of our plight, and he eagerly volunteered to take our rod and tap the threads we needed for the rod ends! About half an hour to 45 minutes later, he showed back up with the part! If it weren't for him, our team would be dead in the water right now. Below is the photo of our new friends, holding the old rod and the new one he made. Thanks again!
We have no idea what is in store for us the next coming days. We have been held back significantly because of this broken rod, and we had to cover that distance trailering the car, which comes with heavy penalties to our overall race time. But hopefully this hasn't taken us completely to the end of the pack, however, we are still dead set on finishing this race! Halfway done, halfway to go.


deborah said...

...maybe this is what it's really all about,unexpected help from wonderful people,formerly strangers..very,very cool!

mark said...

It's nice to hear that you were lucky enough to find a machinist who was helpful. This story is wonderful. I really hope the rest of the trip goes better for your team. PS. I like your blog... it is really well done.

Judy said...

What an amazing experience you have had. The couple that helped you was wonderful. Also, the blog story was well written and exciting.
You even have a Gator fan rooting for you.
Never give up !!!!!!

Heidi said...

Congrats on random friendly locals! Keep that up and you'll end up with a reputation like Prin ;-) Rock on! (with love from Prin's '05 team)

Judy said...

Ever Braver
Ever Stronger

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great blog, Mark. So glad everyone is safe and you are crossing into Canada. How about a shout out to all the UPSers along the route that have been providing meals, drinks, snacks, support and publicity?

Michael said...

Clearly that rod breaking was the result of cruddy design by Mr. Matt Hatfield. And you can tell him I said that! Great story though and I'm glad things are going well. Oh and of course it would be nick who couldn't avoid a pothole.

Mark said...

Actually that rod design was all Chris. We took that suspension straight from Gato II!

Jeanne said...

What an amazing story! Kudos to the helpful motorcycling machinist. Hope this is the last of your troubles. Race well!
(I'm a Minnesota mom, but am amazed by what all the teams are accomplishing. Keep it up!)

Ellen said...

Hello UK Team,

Just wanted to say hello from all of us here at Hydro Aluminum, Sidney, Ohio. We are very excited to watch your daily progress and glad you were able to get your car fixed. Keep up the great work and have a fun and safe rest of the trip!

deborah said...

CTV Calgary/CTV News has some nice coverage of the race-also a nice photo of Gato!