Friday, July 18, 2008

A good start with unfortunate penalties

The official times have been released and as it stands we are leaving Sioux Falls in first place. Unfortunatly most of our lead has been lost due to penalties. With 1.5 hours of penalties we have reduced our lead to close to 14 minutes. The majority of the penalty time was caused by the actions of the team in the last 15 minutes of racing two days ago. After a few team meetings and discussions the team does believe that we acted safely and followed the protocols our team has set up. However we do see the other side of the coin and will not be protesting this penalty. Rather we will submit an explanation to the officials that allows our voice to be heard and gives them the chance to understand the mindset of the team and the procedures we have set up and have been running with for over 5000 miles.

The day has started pretty well. We are running for over 20 miles. We are currently in Minnesota heading north to Fargo!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

What were the penalties for?

July 18, 2008 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger Furqan Nazeeri said...

I think that might be an all-time Michigan record in terms of penalties!

July 18, 2008 at 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you guys jockeying with Principia for first place this morning?

Sucks about the penalties, but its part of the rayce and theres still plenty of time to build up another lead.

July 18, 2008 at 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@furqan - The 99 team had to do a fair amount of trailering due to the lack of sun for 3/4 of the race, so thats proably the largest penalty. But this would be up there for a non-trailering offense.

July 18, 2008 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Hostman said...

Well, we got about the same amount levied against us in Medicine Hat in '05, and we used logged telemetry data along with GPS data to show were were within the regulations, and all the penalties were removed. Good thing we collected all that data!

This sounds a little less cut-and-dry, but we can hope the race officials will come to a fair determination. Certainly any non-speeding penalty that is related to 15 minutes of driving should not be assessed more than 30 minutes in penalty time ... it's not like the pack was on *fire*, right? :-P

Best of luck team, I'm sure you'll pull through this per usual.


July 18, 2008 at 12:20 PM  
Blogger Wisniewski said...

Calgary News CTV is following the race. Here is a link to a video they posted covering Bochum and Michigan.

July 18, 2008 at 12:45 PM  
Anonymous russ moerland said...

I'd be really interested to hear what the penalties are.

Congrats to the strategy crew for building a lead, because this would be disastrous any other way.

@jose: remember that our array in '99 was also put out between 1/3 and 1/2 of rated power output. We couldn't even recover a full charge on a clear day at the Atlanta stage stop it was so bad.

July 18, 2008 at 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@russ oh yeah I was just talking about the penalty number alone. The array and the weather just put us behind the eight ball, but it was still a fun ride.

July 18, 2008 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Garrick Williams said...

I had a brief conversation with Ferman last night, and this particular violation was not one for which telemetry data would do much good. But the pack was not on fire. I'll leave it to someone on the team to explain fully when they have the time and feel it's appropriate to do so, but the gist of it is that the car had some mechanical issues at the end of the day. The team felt it was safe to press on until they could camp for the night at 5:45, but the race officials disagreed and assigned a penalty.

Again recall that that info is from last night when it sounds like this was still a bit up in the air and is thus in no way an official statement, I just hope to settle down the speculation a bit until the team can tell us more.

Also, the NASC webpage lists the official times with Michigan holding a lead of about 21 minutes, so it may be somewhat better than Ferman's report in the post.

July 18, 2008 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger TC Lambert said...

I got called in to work. Very frustrating. The safety regs should not be fuzzy enough that we think we can proceed and the official disagrees. At the very least the official in the chase car who is assessing these penalties should be able to say something. That disagreement apparently turned 15 minutes into 90 minutes. Obviously, if we know that's the trade-off, we should stop and fix whatever is wrong. Take the 15 minute hit rather than the 90 minute hit.

The official no doubt acted in good faith. But a disagreement over rule interpretation shouldn't be a 90 minute penalty.

I am upset with the NASC organizers now over a number of issues, one of which is the abysmal communications to us poor folks trying to follow the race. Another big one is about the solar concentrators. Another one is that the longest stage, Winnipeg to Medicine Hat, 662 miles, is only scheduled for 2 days. Only a few top teams can make that, and only if the weather is favorable. Neosho to Sioux Falls, 606 miles, was allotted 3 days.

The guy in charge of NASC doesn't know what he's doing.

July 18, 2008 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Garrick Williams said...

TC, I understand you're upset, but keep in mind that there's more to the story than what I said before, or am even aware of.

I agree that, in disagreements over safety between the observer and the team, the observer should be required to give a verbal warning that the intend to pursue a penalty (generally observers don't penalize directly, they only make an observation that other officials later make a determination on). Generally they are not supposed to tell the team when they do this.

The logic behind verbal warning would be that, if it's truly unsafe, the observer should say something - the team may not be aware of the problem, or that it's something that should be considered unsafe. If it's safe enough to keep quiet about until the next stage stop, it probably should not be given a race-changingly large penalty.

With regards to your other criticisms, the guy in charge of NASC, Dan Eberle, is a fantastic, extremely knowledgable person, and this race would have died a long time ago without his persistence in believing it could happen long after a lot of people had given up on it.

A year ago, this event had no sponsor and no prospect of happening. Many if not all of the problems you note are the result of having to hastily organize an event on a minimal budget with a small staff. They are justifiably more concerned with keeping the race safe and well run than they are with putting fancy widgets on the website. This is precisely as it should be. Regulations also had to be developed quickly, with minimal time for debate between teams and race officials. As for the route and stops, much is determined by when venues can be scheduled, etc, things that are difficult to manage on short notice.

Despite the challenges faced by Eberle and the NASC crew, NASC has always been a well run, safe event, much more so than the World Solar Challenge in ways too numerous to list here. The very fact that we're complaining about a lack of GPS coverage rather than, say, making up stage rules two days into the race or releasing solar cars into rush hour traffic without their support vehicles is a testament to the dedication and skill of all the people who make NASC happen. While there are certainly constructive critcisms that can be made, we should really commend the NASC organizers and officials, without whom North American solar racing would be more or less dead.

July 18, 2008 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

TC I certainly share your frustration, I loved the GPS tracker in '05, I mainly used it to see where my own caravan vehicles were! But I mostly agree with Garrick. From what I understand this year's NASC is being run by volunteers (no paid employees), and on short funding and time. Not really excuses, but I think we're fortunate there is a race at all (remember they came within a week of canceling it all together)!

Regarding the penalties - No doubt the officials felt they were in the right, and it's pretty hard to argue with safety calls, but 90 minutes, wow! U of M never fails to make things interesting, it'd be no fun if the race wasn't filled with excitement, drama, close calls and lead changes. I have all the faith in the world that the Continuum team will come through this stronger than before!

July 18, 2008 at 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Steve Cook said...

Hi TC and Garrick. TC I am surprised you went to work, it seems that with all the info you have been posting for us that you have not had time to sleep never mind work as well.
Regarding both your comments on the organisation of the event and WSC, yes i am frustrated too with the lack of feedback from the official website and confusion with rules and i was frustrated with the same thing for WSC.
But thinking about it a bit the best event ever was 1987 WSC, budget was $0.00 paid staff was 0 lots of volounteers all organised by one bloke who made all these evnts possible.
Let us all thank Hans Tholstup for making it all happen.

July 18, 2008 at 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take more of an issue with the team putting their driver on public roads with overly worn brake pads (based on hearsay I know). If true, that is a ridiculous choice and they should be penalized. The fact that no details about what actually happened have been posted (updates from the road have been very prompt) and that the team isn’t pursuing an appeal tells me that this probably wasn’t a marginal call.

July 18, 2008 at 8:30 PM  
Blogger Garrick Williams said...

Well, little has been posted because last I knew little was finalized. And as your negative speculation indicates, the team putting out a little info can be worse than putting out none at all. Presumably they are waiting to put out a full report until they can settle down and write something coherent.

Also, worn brakes are a bit of a gray area - obviously running metal on metal all day is unsafe, but is, say, carrying on for a couple miles after you hit the wear indicator unsafe (they are of course, designed to warn you long enough ahead of time to get repair)? In between there's a lot of gray, where conceivably two reasonable people can come to different conclusions, so it's unfair to assume horrific guilt just because you don't have a detailed account.

Keep in mind as well that the race officials are by necessity going to be extremely conservative, while the team knows the car and what it can handle very well. Recognizing this and not protesting the official decision may be a mark of grace rather than an admission of guilt.

At any rate, you make a mistake, serve your time, learn from it, and move on, which is what Michigan appears to be doing.

To Steve:

Hans is, of course, basically the god of solar car. Eberle is comparatively a minor deity, but still worthy of the praise of mere solar mortals.

July 18, 2008 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Garrick you are totally right, we should all be thanking Hans and Dan for giving us unlimited reasons to avoid work and blog about nerdy stuff all day.

July 18, 2008 at 9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, just checking out the blogs today and there is great information out here. I was lucky enough to see the start of the rayce, living in Plano, TX. My boys were impressed enough with the whole gathering that one of them is finally leaning towards U of M. I just hope we don't penalize ourselves into a situation like our football team! Keep up the great feed. BSEE '88 Go Blue!

July 19, 2008 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You misspelled "Minnesota"!

July 19, 2008 at 2:16 PM  

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