Day 3: February 28, 2015

It’s finally here! Saturday is the first on-track competition day. The 51 teams through the technical inspection early this morning were already free to go out on track – Prototypes first – to make their first of five possible award attempts. By 4 pm, the number was 83.

Each attempt requires driving 10 laps of the 1.3 km-long urban track at Manila’s Rizal Park. The amount of fuel or energy consumed is measured meticulously by the technical team, who calculate how far the cars would have travelled on the equivalent of one litre of fuel.

Onwards, mainly upwards

By lunchtime, the only Japanese competitor, Clean Diesel Team from Hyogo Prefectural Tajima Technical Institute, had powered through last year’s best diesel Prototype result. They drove 1,165 kilometres per litre equivalent on their first attempt, compared to 717.6 km/l. Team leader Daichi Sakamoto now wants to hit 1,500 km/l equivalent.

One of this year’s favourites is Thai team Luk Jao Mae Khlong Prapa, with their ethanol-powered Prototype. They reached 459 km/l at the first attempt, a long way short of their 2,211.3 km/l runner-up performance in 2014. Teacher and advisor Narongdech Keeratipranon was unconcerned, and even a burst tyre on Friday had failed to dampen spirits. “Everything's on plan. No big trouble,” he said.

The battery electric Prototype from Thailand’s Rattanakosin Technological College has shattered the team’s own 2014 top performance with a 333 km per kilowatt hour drive on their second attempt, up from 263.4 kWh/km last year.

Taking turns

Heavier, and more car-like, the UrbanConcept category was invited out to track later. ITS Team 2 from Indonesia with their diesel-powered car immediately almost doubled last year’s best result with 136 km/l equivalent. Satria Bayu Mangkunegoro from the team says he believes they can do better. “Our target is to hit 200km/l or more," he said.

Indonesia’s team Horas Mesin from University of Sumatera Utara has already inched past their own alternative ethanol-powered best from 2014 with 103 km/l equivalent on the first attempt, up from 101.4 km/l. “We are making modifications to our engine that will improve the performance. Our target is to reach about 200km/l,” said team manager Arie M Banguan.

Learning beats winning

Just when it looked like they wouldn’t be beaten, last year’s top prize winners from Panjavidhya Technological College in Thailand made their former competitors happy.

As team How Much Ethanol in 2014, the school team achieved 2,730.8 km/l equivalent with their ethanol-powered Prototype. Now they have switched to diesel and renamed themselves Panja – the “No. 1” car in the pack.

“I’m confident we would win again this year if we stuck to the same ethanol engine as before, but we want to make things more challenging,” said 17 year-old team manager Radtanagone Sonying.

“The diesel engine is stronger but it’s heavier than an ethanol engine, so it slows the vehicle down. Some teams come here to win, others come learn and do something new,” said Gilles Vernier from the technical team.

John Robert, an electrical engineering student from the local Mapua Institute, has come to check out the excitement and the event’s new visitor experience with two classmates. "We’re looking forward to getting a closer to the cars than last year, so that's interesting," he said.

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