MANILA, OCTOBER 14, 2007 (STAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Students of De La Salle University (DLSU) Manila left for Australia Friday evening with high hopes of winning this year’s World Solar Challenge.

Team Sinag, the same group of great young minds that invented “Sinag,” the first solar-powered car in the Philippines, will compete in a 3,000-kilometer solar car race using sunlight as their vehicle’s only source of power.

“We feel pressure because we are representing the Philippines but also excited because we’re going to Australia,” overall team leader Robert Obiles told The STAR shortly before they left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) via a Philippine Airlines flight to Sydney, Australia around 8 p.m.

“But we did train for this so we are confident (of winning),” the 20-year old fourth year electronics and communications engineering student said.

This year, the Philippines will, for the first time, join the eight-day race from Oct. 21 to 28.

They will compete against more than 40 other nations from around the globe and against three-time defending champion The Netherlands.

According to Obiles, the race is not just about being the fastest because the real challenge is to finish the soonest by conserving energy.

“The race starts at 8 a.m. and stops at 5 p.m. when the sun goes down and then starts again the next day,” said Obiles, who is among those who will be driving Sinag.

Former energy secretary Vince Perez, is now chairman and president of the Philippine Solar Car Society Inc., sent off the team.

He bade Team Philippines good luck and reminded them that they are joining the competition for the glory of the country and for themselves.

“I look at you bright young people and see the fire of optimism, a magical sense of wonder burning in your eyes. Truly, I envy each of you with this once in a lifetime opportunity to carry the torch for the Filipino people on a path that no one has yet traversed,” Perez said.

“No doubt, you are looking forward to this great adventure ahead of you. And well, you should be. But make no mistake, you will be up against some of the harshest, roughest, environmental conditions out there,” he reminded them.

Still, Perez said that despite the long and difficult path, the team will be carrying in their hearts and minds “the pride of a nation whose prayers and hopes are with you every step of the way.”

“Fear not the path, embrace the journey,” he said.

Team Sinag’s members also include overall technical project leader Rene Fernandez, Jack Catalan, Isidro Marfori, Emmanuel Gonzales, Noriel Mallari, Ivan Porcalla, Sherwin To, Prince Ang, Mico Villena, Martin Sy-Quia, Vincent Yao, Kaiser Fernandez, Walter Chua, and Eric Tan, who leads a three-man team of student drivers.

Win or lose, Team Sinag believes that being given the chance to join the race alone is already something to be proud of.

Now on its 20th year, the 2007 World Solar Challenge being sponsored by Panasonic is dubbed as “the ultimate challenge in sustainable energy.”

The competition starts with the challenge of designing and building a car capable of crossing the vast and imposing continent of Australia.

Over the years, the event has attracted teams from corporations, research and educational institutions around the world.

The World Solar Challenge is owned and managed by Events South Australia, the major events division of the South Australian Tourism Commission.

It started in 1987, when bright young engineers and scientists from around the world were invited to pursue the ideals of sustainable transport.

Those who join the race do not only compete to win but join hands with other countries in the search for sustainable transport alternatives for future generations.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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