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A biennial 3,000km race from Darwin to Adelaide (north to south across the centre of Australia), including solar-powered cars from over 30 countries around the world, has now begun. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the competition.

The teams in this World Solar Challenge are made up of students who have built their own vehicles. The competitors performed some test runs before the start, and then raced on Saturday to establish the final grid position. 

Belgium's Punch Powertrain team took the pole position when it reached an average speed of 83.4km/h.

The rules of the race are precise: "Based on the original notion that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy, which is 10% of that theoretical figure. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle," the organisers outlined.

Once a team leaves Darwin, they must travel as far as they can each day until 17:00 "when they make camp in the desert wherever they happen to be." During this time, all teams must be completely self-sufficient.

There are seven mandatory checkpoints along the race route at which only the most basic maintenance is allowed to correct tyre pressures and clean debris from the vehicle.

There are three categories in which the participating teams compete: the challenger class, the cruiser class and the non-competitive adventure class. The fastest teams are expected to reach Adelaide in South Australia on Thursday.


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