Yesterday’s run was a comparatively straightforward 302km leg from Port Augusta and the wind gods relented, swinging the breeze from the headwinds encountered for most of the journey to a tail wind. Admittedly the breeze brought with it the high temperatures from the arid inland and outside temperature gauges hovered around the 32C mark but most cars recorded some of their best consumption figures for the trip.
The on-board trip computers of the three 1.6-litre turbo diesel-engined Team Mini Cooper Ds recorded their best numbers, with two cars showing 2.8litres/100km and the third (running wider wheels and tyres with more rolling resistance) showing 3.0 litres/100km.
The official figures from yesterday (day five) have Will Hagon and Gail Broadbent setting the overall benchmark for the day in their MINI Cooper D, with an impressive figure of 2.82 litres per 100 kilometres.
The drive to Adelaide wasn’t without its conundrums which included guessing how long it would take to drive in through the suburbs to the historic military Torrens Parade Ground on the banks of the River Torrens, behind the colonial Government House.
Road works on the outskirts of the city caused some puckering of sphincters as average speeds tumbled; after all, four hours for the 302km and an average speed of more than 75km/h meant that the low-speed segment of the trip needed to be factored in and low-speed surprises weren’t welcome.
Almost all vehicles made it without eating into their 30 minutes allowed late time for the Darwin to Adelaide trip. The only and understandable exception was the Honda postie motorcycle converted to run on plant-based renewable alcohol and ridden by the father and son team of Ken and James Stamford. It has made the trip with few dramas although vibrations from the road have shaken a few pieces loose (and shattered the tail light lens) and a rear tyre has been replaced. Apart from that it has handled the journey well, using 5.0litres/100km and emitting 75 grams of carbon dioxide each kilometre.
The event isn’t over though and there’s a sting in the tail. After a restful afternoon in Adelaide (for the first time teams were able to spend more than 15 minutes over lunch – early in the event Team MINI was turning a lunch stop around in two and a half minutes) teams will hit the road again at 7am tomorrow for a three-hour urban driving test.
For the first time during Adelaide’s peak-hour commuter traffic the stop-start feature of the MINI Cooper D will be brought into play. This means that when the car stops at a traffic light and the gear lever is put into neutral, the engine stops. It restarts when the clutch pedal is depressed to engage first gear, saving the usual engine idling fuel loss.
So far the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic looks like being the most economical car (in the light car class), but it has fallen foul of the stewards. The car has not been running in standard production trim since Darwin (as the rules dictate), thanks to the absence of its rear window wiper. Ford team members insist the wiper was removed to protect the rear window decal, not to improve the car’s aerodynamics. After the stewards intervened, Ford agreed to re-fit the rear wiper for the final, slower urban leg in Adelaide.
In the small car class, the gloves are off between the three Mini Cooper Ds. The arrival of ABC commentator Will Hagon and environment campaigner Gail Broadbent has seen a shake up in the standings with the duo taking the lead with an overall average after day 5 of 3.25 litres. Motoring journo Bob Jennings and co-driver Toni Andreevski are on 3.36, and the car of Andy Ford and Chris Smerdon is averaging 3.75.
In the category for best improvement over the standard factory laboratory consumption figures – which will crown the overall event winner - the 6.2-litre HSV Maloo ute has been the strong performer on the open road while the battle has continued between the two-car teams of 4WD machines from Kia and Hyundai with Kia holding a slight edge.
Conditions have been ideal for the solar cars all the way with clear, cloud-free skies; only a dust haze around Tennant Creek temporarily reduced the power intake of their solar arrays. Four teams have arrived in Adelaide and the remainder are expected to straggle in during the next 36 hours.
With: BMW Australia