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Swiss Entry Wins Solar Care Race

November 16, 1990

ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) _ Supporters rang cow bells as the lone Swiss entry in the World Solar Challenge crossed the finish line Friday to win the 1,800-mile race.

The solar-powered car, resembling a giant pink-and-blue cockroach, took the lead on the first day of the competition after leaving Darwin on Australia’s north coast.

The ″Spirit of Biel″ steadily stretched its margin on the Stuart Highway across the country’s arid Outback midsection.

It finished at a resort south of Adelaide more than 250 miles ahead of second-place Honda, the pre-race favorite, which was not expected to complete the course until Saturday. The cars race only nine hours a day.

Three cars - Japan’s Hoxan Corp. and U.S. entries University of Michigan and Western Washington University - were battling for third place.

The Swiss car averaged about 38 miles per hour and finished in an unofficial time of 46 hours and 23 minutes. That was 1 1/2 hours off the record set by General Motors’ Sunraycer in the inaugural race three years ago.

The car was entered by The Bienne School Of Engineering. The team finished third in 1987 after suffering a collision near Alice Springs which almost put them out of the race.

″This proves we are not just a country of chocolate and cheeses,″ Leo Renggli, the Swiss consul-general in Melbourne, said as he and 200 other people met the winners.

Biel team leader Fredy Sidler said the energy consumed by the car over six days was equivalent to about 1 1/2 gallons of gasoline.

He said it gave the team a great deal of pleasure to eclipse the performance of the giant multinational motoring companies in the race.

″It’s not their fault they are big and we are small, but we proved the standard of technology we have is really at the highest level,″ Sidler said.

The Swiss car might have broken the record except the first day was plagued by rain and overcast conditions that delayed the start and slowed the field. Torential downpours later forced some teams to cover their cars.

The 36-team entry list included 11 cars each from Australia and Japan, eight from the United States and one each from Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, New Zealand and England.

There were only three official dropouts, although a couple of cars were reported to have traveled only 125 miles. They have five more days to officially finish the race.

The Stuart Highway runs through some of the world’s most desolate countryside. Temperatures regularly surpassed 100 degrees as the cars cruised through the arid land, with no signs of civilization for stretches of 190 miles.

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