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Cheered on by visits from local Horsham MP, Jeremy Quin, a BBC film crew and a host of sponsors and well-wishers plus several hundred fellow pupils, the Ardingly Solar Team launched its Solar Electric Vehicle in fitting style. The car is now on its way to Adelaide for the gruelling 3000 km race to Darwin across some of the world’s harshest terrain. Built by a team of over 100 students during the past three years, Ardingly College is the first European school team to undertake the challenge.   Chairman of Governors, Jim Sloane, and Horsham MP, Jeremy Quin, arrived to see the finishing touches being made to the car on Friday, 18th September. With the weather on their side, the team performed successful test drives over the weekend at the South of England Showground. Race technique, emergency action, endurance and speed tests were all part of the intensive programme.

MP, Jeremy Quin, commented: “This is fantastic project.  I was immensely impressed with the car and what the team have achieved. I wish them well in their epic journey across Australia.  Whatever the result of the competition all involved have learned invaluable skills for the future – and we may all learn valuable information on solar power as a result of the event”.

On Monday, Mechanics Manager, Holly Hill, and Team Manager, Matt Price, drove through the archway and across the quad between rows of cheering students. BBC South East captured the moment for their Monday evening show and then followed the car to its current workshop at wiring company, Time 24, in Burgess Hill to film the careful disassembly of the team’s solar array.   Time 24 owner and director, David Shore, said: “The Ardingly students’ positivity and enthusiasm and their happiness at being in this project are infectious and have come through to our whole company. We have also enjoyed seeing them learn to find solutions under pressure, to communicate well and to work as a team – and to a budget: all these life-skills will carry them far”.

On Tuesday, 22nd September, the official launch took place – three years after the project was devised. An audience of supporters and sponsors who have given practical help throughout that time met at Time 24 and watched a presentation by the members of the student team.  After paying tribute to the inspiration and leadership of Head of Physics and Project Leader, Dr Andrew Spiers, the students summarised the extraordinary range of work and experiences they have enjoyed over the past three years. As team driver and Media Manager, James Price observed, after thousands of hours in various workshops, in companies and appealing for funds in boardrooms: “We realised we were not just building a solar car – that would be too easy – but running a little business too”.   One of Ardingly Solar’s key sponsors was Global Technologies Racing. Simon Kingdon Butcher, director and owner, said that while busy working on bodywork for clients such as Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren, GTR was keen to find time for the amazing Solar Project:  “We are thrilled to be able to help – to make a difference here is immense.  GTR is committed to bringing on youngsters in our business and this is just the earlier stage. The Ardingly students have been super – they are polite but have so much character and are really driven. All of our staff will follow their progress with great interest and we are willing them to go the distance”.   Dr Spiers and the student team will follow the car in early October, ready for the race on the 18th October. From there the real adventure takes off: 3000km, six days in the outback, four EV drivers, two support vehicles, tents, snakes, spiders, and kangaroos!