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Newbie ANU Solar Car Team The Underdogs In World's Biggest Solar Car Race

The students are outsiders to win the famous race.

07/10/2017 2:08 PM AEDT | Updated 07/10/2017 2:20 PM AEDT
MTAA Super Sol Invictus Team, Monika Berlot
The team from ANU are competing in the World Solar Challenge for the first time ever.

For Monika Berlot, just making the start line of the world's most famous solar car race is as good as winning it.

"To be honest, we just really want to cross the start line and get a reasonable distance," says the Australian National University student, who's part of a team in this year's World Solar Challenge.

"Not many teams make it the whole way, so we want to get as far as we can".

Berlot's team is participating for the first time in the race, which will see at least 95 cars race the 3,000 kilometres from Dawin to Adelaide.

Building the car has been a massive effort for the students, who start the epic race on Sunday as huge underdogs against top teams from Stanford and Cambridge universities.

According to 21-year-old Berlot, it has taken the local undergraduate team two years of hard work to build one of the most energy efficient vehicles in the world, entirely from scratch.

Less than 24 hours out from the race, the team is excited about seeing their significant efforts pay off after the ANU car, known as "Super Charge", passed its final checks.

The last barrier was a technical one, Berlot says, with the team receiving safety clearance for their electrical system after failing on Friday.

"It's super stressful, there are a lot of hard deadlines to make, we've now passed everything," Berlot adds.

Coming up against teams that have been competing in the race for decades, ANU's team has humble aims.

"To be honest, we just really want to cross the start line and get a reasonable distance. Not many teams make it the whole way, so we want to get as far as we can," Berlot tells HuffPost Australia from Darwin.

"The team is super great at dealing with any issues that arise, and we're all just so stoked we got this far".

The challenge, which is in its 30th year, sees vehicles drive the massive stretch of highway between Darwin and Adelaide using only power from the sun, or from vehicle movement.

Founded by Danish-born Australian Hans Tholstrup, the man who developed the first ever solar car, the race takes place once every two years and is one of the world's most well known solar races.

ANU's bid for a title comes after a number of impressive efforts from Australian cars. In 2009, a University of New South Wales team won the Solar Cell division and in 2013, another UNSW team came third.

But to win, the Aussie students will have to beat the formidable team from Holland's Delft University of Technology, which has taken out the challenge six times.

However, even if they bow out before the finish line, Berlot is confident this is just the start of ANU's solar car ambitions.

"There's already been discussion about doing it next time" she says.

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