MANILA, NOVEMBER 1, 2007 (STAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Team Sinag, the young band of heroes who succeeded in showing the world how Filipinos can shine during the recently concluded World Solar Challenge (WSC) in Australia, came home yesterday with the torch of victory.

The team arrived to a heroes’ welcome at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) shortly after 5 p.m., officially joining the ranks of prestigious Filipinos who did their country proud.

Sinag, the country’s first solar-powered car, finished 11th place in the Challenge Class of the prestigious international solar car race by arriving at the finish line with over a day to spare.

The victory is now being dubbed as a remarkable achievement for the Philippines’ first solar car to compete in this grueling 3,000-kilometer cross-country race where a total of 41 international teams competed in various classes.

Sinag performed exceptionally well from the moment it left the starting line in Darwin on Sunday, Oct. 21, needing only minor adjustments to its brake system during the race.

The Philippine solar car quickly jumped to 11th place overall and after that, the team maintained its position and made excellent time by passing the halfway mark at Alice Springs on Wednesday, Oct. 24, and breaching the 2,000-kilometer mark at Cadney Homestead the following day.

By evening of Friday, Oct. 26, the team already made its way to Glendambo, the second to the last stop – less than 500 kms from the finish line and made it in high spirits to Adelaide on Saturday, ahead of almost a dozen competitors in its class.

Sinag’s triumph in the WSC is considered a milestone in the country’s quest for the development of solar power as a viable and reliable source of energy.

“This triumph reminds us Filipinos that the country is blessed with great potential for tapping solar power, and that we as a nation working together as a team can succeed in a challenging international competition,” said Vince Perez, chairman of the Philippine Solar Car Challenge Society.

“Hopefully, this also encourages and raises the youth’s interest in science and technology,” said Robert Obiles, student team leader of De La Salle University-Manila.

The Sinag project was sponsored by DLSU-Manila, Ford Group Philippines, Motolite, Philippine Airlines, San Miguel Corp., Pilipinas Shell, SunPower, U-Freight, and Ventus.

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

The team said their placing 11th out of 21 cars participating in the Challenge category of the WSC is already a big achievement and a great success for a first-timer.

Team Sinag said they have actually beaten other bets including those from Canada, Switzerland, Germany and host country Australia.

“What makes us proud is the fact that we finished the 3,000-km race safely and without major mechanical problems,” they said.

“The University of Michigan (US) bumped into a support vehicle in Darwin. The Stanford University solar car, on the other hand, crashed in the middle of the race and was unable to continue. Our Sinag car traveled smoothly as it crossed the continent,” they said.

During the six days of outback experience, the team said teamwork and discipline made them survive the freezing cold nights, numerous flies, bugs and moths, dusty deserts, strong winds that almost destroyed some of their tents at night.

They claimed the Nuon Team of Netherlands, this year’s WSC champion, admired the Philippines’ design and stability of the solar car.

They said the Dutch team even admired the design of their jackets. “The most unique among all the uniforms of the participating teams,” they said.

“In fact, the Nuon team along with the teams from Canada, France, US and Australia bartered their own uniforms just to grab our jackets,” they said.

Team Sinag said another unforgettable day was when they almost missed the Dunmarra control stop because they arrived there at 2:58 p.m., just two minutes before the deadline.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved