[PHOTO AT LEFT - Members of Team Sinag, the Philippines’ first solar car, celebrate at the finish line of the World Solar Challenge in Adelaide, Australia.]

MANILA, OCTOBER 29, 2007 (STAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Not bad at all for these first timers.

The Philippines’ first solar-powered car crossed the finish line of the World Solar Challenge (WSC) in Australia Saturday with over a day to spare, a remarkable achievement for the team competing in the grueling 3,000-kilometer race against 40 other entries from around the world.

“The Philippine flag has reached Adelaide,” said Sinag technical head Rene Fernandez, as a flag-waving Filipino crowd greeted the car at the finish line.

Team Sinag arrived in Adelaide where the race ends at around 4 p.m., well ahead of the 5 p.m. cut-off for the day.

The Philiippine team, composed of De La Salle University (DLSU) students and faculty members, finished 11th place out of 21 entries in the Challenge Class of the World Solar Challenge (WSC).

According to www.wsc.org.au, WSC’s official website, the Philippine team was in 20th place among the total 41 entries as of Saturday.

Lord Mayor of Adelaide Michael Harbison and Hans Tholstrup, founder of WSC and the first person to cross Australia in a solar car, also welcomed Team Sinag as it finished the race, which started in Darwin.

The team also got to meet the members of the Nuon Solar Team from the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands that had won many times over in the WSC.

“Sinag is bringing home the torch of pride for Filipinos everywhere. The members of Team Sinag took the challenge and conquered it,” said Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society chairman and former energy secretary Vince Perez.

Since arriving in Australia just over two weeks ago, the team achieved its first triumph when Sinag passed the strict qualifying phases to compete in the Challenge Class of the race sponsored mainly by Panasonic. The car’s competitor included similarly high-tech entries from universities and organizations around the world.

“This was a dream come true for all of us. All the months of hard work and preparation really paid off. We managed to do more and go farther than any of us thought possible,” said Eric Tan, who leads a three-man team of drivers.

Team Sinag members, who flew to Australia last Oct. 12, said they joined the competition not just to win but to show the world how Filipinos have managed to engineer its own solar car.

They said being able to join the race alone is an achievement for them, the country, and the DLSU students who made it all possible.

Apart from Fernandez and Tan, Team Sinag’s members include overall Student Team Leader Robert Obiles, Jack Catalan, Isidro Marfori, Emmanuel Gonzales, Noriel Mallari, Ivan Porcalla, Sherwin To, Prince Ang, Mico Villena, Martin Sy-Quia, Vincent Yao, Kaiser Fernandez, and Walter Chua.

The Sinag solar car was designed and built from scratch in a record time of less than a year by DLSU students with the support of Ford Group Phils., Motolite, Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Corp., Pilipinas Shell, SunPower, U-Freight and Ventus.

The project was also supported by Aurora, Cabrera Lavadia and Associates, JWT, CreAsia, Merritt Partners, Tuason Racing School, Gochermann Solar Technology, and Stratworks.

The WSC, now on its 20th year, is tagged as “the ultimate challenge in sustainable energy,” which begins with the challenge of designing and building a car capable of crossing the vast and imposing continent of Australia.

Owned and managed by Events South Australia, the major events division of the South Australian Tourism Commission, it promotes the vital search for sustainable transport alternatives for future generations.

It was the first time the Philippines has joined the event since the WSS started in 1987, with the goal of showing the world that Filipinos are world-class achievers.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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