Belgian solar car team wins 3,000-km race through Australian outback

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - A team from Belgium’s KU Leuven University has won a 3,000-km (1,864-mile) race for solar-powered cars through the Australian outback, organizers said, as the cars arrived in the South Australian capital of Adelaide on Thursday.

Belgian Agoria Solar Team members are seen at the finish line of the 2019 World Solar Challenge at Victoria Square in Adelaide, Australia, October 17, 2019. AAP Image/David Mariuz/via REUTERS

The Bridgestone World Solar Challenge is one of the world’s most prestigious solar car races created to foster development of experimental, solar-powered vehicles by university students.

The biennial event began in 1987, aiming to show that a 1,000-watt car could complete the trip from Australia’s northern city of Darwin to Adelaide in 50 hours.

“For the first time in the history of our solar team we are WORLD CHAMPIONS,” the Belgian team, which won on its eighth attempt, posted on Twitter.

The team, Agoria, was the first to cross the finish line in their low Blue Point car, in a time just shy of 73 hours over five days, after the earlier leading car flamed out in the final stretch.

They were followed by a team from Japan’s Tokai University that arrived a few minutes later, and third place went to a team from the University of Michigan.

The Dutch team Vattenfall Solar’s car Nuna X burst into flames less than 300 km (186 miles) from the finish line early on Thursday, leaving the car a blackened, smouldering wreck.

The driver escaped without injury, however, the team said on social media.

The Belgian winners also won acclaim from the country’s royals and its air force on Twitter.

“Our congratulations to the @solarteam_be,” the air force said in a post. “All those test drives carried out @BeAirForce airfield ... to get the car up and running are the basis of this top performance.”

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Clarence Fernandez