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July 27, 2005

U-M Team Momentum wins North American Solar Challenge

Video: The finish and comments from U-M and University of Minnesota team members (2 min. 33 sec.)
Quicktime  Image of: video camera
(The file is 37 Mb, so you may wish to right-click to download it, rather than play it from the Web.)
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University of Michigan driver Joe Belte gets ready to roll out of the checkpoint.

Photo by Stefano Paltera/North American Solar Challenge

More images >

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The University of Michigan solar car Team Momentum finished first in the North American Solar Challenge that began 10 days ago and ended today at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.  

The U-M team earned its fourth national championship—the most of any university—since competition began in 1990. This is the eighth-generation solar car. About 20 other university teams participated in the race this year.

"I congratulate everyone who helped bring another North American Solar Challenge victory to Michigan," said University President Mary Sue Coleman. "This success represents some of the best qualities of the University of Michigan: Cooperation among different schools and departments, support from industry and alumni, and perhaps most of all, the talent and dedication of our students. The University community is thrilled and extremely proud of this great team that defeated some very capable opponents to win this race."

Momentum’s final time was 53 hours and 59 minutes. Second place was University of Minnesota with a time of 54 hours and 11 minutes. Two decisive moments in the close race led to the victory.

"Really for us to recoup the lead, out of Winnipeg we encountered some very strong winds," said Michael Brackney, project manager. "Our strategy pushed that to the edge and we pushed in front of all the other vehicles."

University of Michigan driver Michael Adam shows his identification to Canadian Border Service Officer Lauren Lange, right, at the Emerson West Lynne Border Crossing in Southern Manitoba District in Canada.

Photo by Stefano Paltera/North American Solar Challenge

More images >

Another moment came Tuesday evening when, at the 11th hour, the team compiled an emergency 55-page appeal to dispute 40 minutes of penalties for alleged speeding violations. The brief included in-car data, graphs, charts and maps to prove that the car at no time exceeded the speed limit. Momentum submitted the brief at 7 p.m. and three hours later the judges announced they had retracted all but four minutes in penalties. Momentum started the last leg with a crucial 11 minute, 49 second lead over its closest competitor, the University of Minnesota—a lead they were able to keep.

The 2,500-mile race, which began July 17 in Austin, Texas, and ended in Calgary, is the longest NASC to date, traveling through six states, three provinces and two countries.

The students on Team Momentum have been designing, fine-tuning and promoting the car for two years.

"We are proud of the engineering and other U-M students who led this year's solar car team to victory in Calgary," said Ronald Gibala, interim dean of the U-M College of Engineering. "Team Momentum spent two years perfecting this vehicle, and it's wonderful to see their hard work and dedication rewarded. The College of Engineering and the University community look forward to another great performance by the team at the World Solar Challenge this September in Australia."

Following this win, the team expects to compete in the World Solar Challenge in September in Australia, which includes industry and university teams. U-M teams have twice placed third in the World Solar Challenge.

"This car built by Team Momentum is the product of some of the brightest student minds at the University," said Gary Herrin, interim dean for undergraduate education. "We are excited that they are getting the acknowledgment they deserve after all the hard work and dedication of the past two years."

The contest is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Natural Resources Canada, DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, TransAlta, University of Calgary, CSI Wireless, AMD and Manitoba Transportation and Government Services.

For interviews with winning team members on site, please call Laura Bailey, (734) 647-7087 or (734) 647-1848, or e-mail

To review the daily results of the race, visit this blog at:

For Momentum's Web site, see:

Contact: Laura Bailey
Phone: (734) 647-7087 or (734) 647-1848