Flying doors, failing brakes and last-minute visa problems didn’t dampen team spirits at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe on Friday, the first official competition day.

Still hoping to catch a lucky break, France’s Exergie Prototype gasoline team worked through the night to fix their broken brakes but failed the technical inspection again on Friday. Although more than 165 teams passed by late afternoon, Exergie did not struggle alone.

Most of Ukraine’s LSA Khadi AIS were still driving across France with the team tent, hoping to reach London tonight after visa delays. One US team, in London for Sunday’s Drivers’ World Championship, offered to share their room with the Ukrainian team members who have already made it.

A door flew off Norway’s OUC Shell Eco car as the UrbanConcept ethanol vehicle sped around the race track, but they didn’t let it ruin their day.

“The whole event has far exceeded my expectations,” team member Nikolai Laastad said.

University of Southampton have dreamt of even having a door for weeks. Their fibreglass body never arrived, leaving just a metal chassis and a month to make their own shell.

Heading into the last day of technical inspection, all three teams face a race against time.

“Officially technical inspection is already closed,” says Gilles Vanier, technical director of SEM Europe. “It will definitely close at 3pm on Saturday.”

The award ceremony for the UrbanConcept category is on Saturday afternoon; there’s little time to spare.

Bright sparks

British TV star Rachel Riley sparkled before 29 national flag bearers, who marched a procession of UrbanConcept and Prototype cars past large crowds at the Shell Eco-marathon Europe.

The quiz-show whizz wasn’t the only bright spark - the Shell Ideas 360 and Bright Ideas Challenge winners were also announced. University of Illinois team, the Lean Mean Graphene Machine, won Shell Ideas 360. Their concept for a coating process for cooling water pipes in power plants promises to increase efficiency, reduce costs and environmental impacts.

And there was no shortage of imagination from the Bright Ideas challenge national winners. Queen Elizabeth’s School, north of London, designed algae-filled tubes which absorb sunlight to generate electricity and make hydrogen that could power cars.

Learning lots

As many as 8,000 schoolchildren visited the Make the Future London festival and Shell Eco-marathon on Friday, funnelling into the Energy Lab where they tried out science-related games and demonstrations before checking out the student’s cars in the paddock.

“I liked learning about how the different combustion engines work,” said Anu, aged 11, from Sherrardswood School in Welwyn, Hertfordshire.

“We talk a lot about energy, but it’s not often they get to see it put into practice and see how it works in the real world,” Jim Sands, one of Anu’s teachers, said. “They can get involved because its hands on. They can touch things and experience it first-hand.”

Make the Future London is a four-day festival of ideas and innovation offering curious minds of all ages a glimpse into the global energy future, featuring live science shows and amazing inventions and cars of the future.

Meanwhile, in the Olympic Stadium, Shell Powering Progress Together forum brought together innovators, entrepreneurs, scientists and economists to debate ways to help the transition towards a lower-carbon society.

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For Europe participants

If you’re a participant or want to join Shell Eco-marathon Europe, see all you need to know about the competition.