High winds send practice runs indoors

High winds forced opening ceremonies indoors. Shell Oil Company President Marvin Odum welcomed the students to the historic home of the US auto industry, praising their commitment to innovation and engineering excellence. In his own welcome, Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan noted that a man named Henry Ford built his first car just a few blocks away, and tested it on the same city streets they’ll drive during the weekend’s competitions.

Test runs and inspections

Weather kept those streets off limits for the first day.  Fortunately the cavernous center accommodates a full track in addition to space for all the competitors’ cars and equipment. The 20 teams whose cars had already cleared technical and safety inspection lined up for early test drives immediately after the morning’s events.

Those with work to do headed back to their paddocks and cars to make tweaks, adjustments and, in some cases, major work ahead of technical inspection. Shell Eco-marathon Americas Technical Director Adrian Juergens is in charge of those inspections.  “So far, brakes, visibility and fuel are the problem areas,” he says. And safety, as always, is first priority: “We’re checking the driver’s safety restraints more closely than ever this year.”

A lap around the track

Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University was one of the first teams headed toward the indoor track after making their engine slightly more fuel efficient and prepared for weather changes. Hailing from a colder region, they know the trick of heating the engine before hitting the course.

Right behind them, the only all-girls team in the competition, ShopGirls from Washington, made adjustments based on last years’ experience -- making their car stronger and easier to steer. The team planned to practice coasting and wider turns. “That’s a big part of our strategy,” said team leader Dansil Green.

Ruston High School hit a typical snag on its first try. Despite successful testing back home in Louisiana, at trackside in Detroit the engine wouldn’t run. Back in their paddock they found the problem, fixed it and headed back out.  This time it worked perfectly.

Sitting on the Sidelines

Some teams are a lot farther from getting onto the track. Universidad del Valle de Guatemala’s team had shipped their Prototype vehicle here on a boat but the engine wasn’t allowed through customs.  They had to buy a new engine online and have it shipped to Detroit. It’s meant a lot more work, but they still hope to compete on the weekend.

Teams start lining up to make their first official mileage runs on the Shell Eco-marathon Americas track through downtown Detroit at 8:00 Saturday morning.

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