And we’re off!! MIT SEVT started World Solar Challenge 2011 today, kicking off a 3000km race across the outback.

We started around 9am on Sunday morning, down a packed street in downtown Darwin. There was a huge amount of media and press there – kind of crazy actually. The start went off without a hitch and we soon found ourselves cruising down Stuart’s Highway (the main road we go choppin’ on).

After passing a few broken down cars, we found ourselves with a few problems of our own. After a shredded tyre (a quick turnaround thanks to our awesome tyre crew) we realized we were suffering a problem with our array. Some quick math and guesstimates proved that it would be worth the lost time to pull over and solve it – and luckily our EE team managed to isolate the problem and get us back up and running at full power (we saw ~1100 watts today, a fantastic number). We sprinted to the next checkpoint and managed to slip in just a few minutes before it closed, and kept driving until we found our perfect array charging location just off the highway.

After day 1, we find ourselves just around kilometer 400. A solid performance, but we’re confident we can better that distance tomorrow. Right now its about 8pm and we’ve already tucked Chopper in bed. Time to get some rest and prep for the next day – ideally not as eventful and exciting as today.

Off to hang out under Australian skies. Check back soon for more updates.

This post and every one from the outback is brought to you by – one of our new sponsors that gave us satellite phones and data to keep in touch with each other and our supporters back home.