Winning the Pentax World Solar Challenge proved a bit of a problem for our boys from John Paul Mitchell Systems Inc. (see "Are We Having Fun Yet?" October 1987). Like the rest of the 25-car field, they were done in Down Under by General Motors Corp.'s Sunraycer entry, an estimated $8-million vehicle that finished nearly three days (and about three years, technologically speaking) ahead of its nearest rival. Still, their enthusiasm remains unflagging.
"We ran neck and neck with GM for the first six hours," reports John Paul Jones De Joria, chief executive of John Paul Mitchell Systems. "But our car was specifically designed to maximize both wind power and solar power, and the winds forecast for the duration of the race died after day one. We had to run at much lower speeds to conserve battery charge. Then, when the winds returned, the rains came too. Weatherwise, it was a disaster."
Their car, the Mana La, nevertheless negotiated course speeds of 70 miles per hour and more, and the company hopes to sponsor a domestic competition this spring. Next on the John Paul Mitchell Systems drawing board: a solar street machine for 1988.
"We will stay on top of this technology," vows De Joria, despite the less-than-victorious Australian run. "This race was just a taste of things to come."