TOPEKA (KSNT) – Solar cars from all over the United States and Canada are converging on Heartland Motorsports Park this week.

“This is the first day of the Formula Sun Grand Prix. These teams have been here for the last four days going through a process we call scrutineering which is a full inspection of the cars. These cars will be on the track for eight hours today. They will have a morning and evening charging time and will be back on the track on Wednesday and Thursday. It is an endurance race with 24 hours on the track with solar charging in the morning and evening of each day.” Gail Lueck, St. Louis, Event Organizer.

The Formula Sun Grand Prix is an annual track competition that is held on grand prix or road style closed courses. This style of solar car racing is open to teams from around the world and tests the limits of the solar vehicles in handling curves, braking, and acceleration.

FSGP serves as the qualifier event for this competition. Teams must successfully complete FSGP to prove their vehicles before they are allowed to start the cross-country journey. The racing strategy applied during the three day FSGP track event is different than the cross-country ASC event. Driver training, passing strategy, and quick pit stops are crucial for teams racing in FSGP.

The American Solar Challenge originated in 1990 with Sunrayce USA. Sunrayce was born as a result of GM’s Sunraycer solar car winning the first World Solar Challenge in 1987. GM turned their experience in Australia into a collegiate event in the United States, encouraging teams to design and build a solar powered vehicle. The format for Sunrayce was a series of one-day stages along a predetermined route, including a rest day in the middle of the event.

In 2001, the name was changed to the American Solar Challenge (ASC). ASC also brought a new format to the event, introducing multi-day stages, higher mileages, and no rest days. In 2001 and 2003, the race route followed Historic Route 66 from Chicago to the Los Angeles area. In 2005 and 2008, two special editions of the race were held, named the North American Solar Challenge, as the route went from Texas to Alberta, Canada. With 10-11 day durations, 2500+ miles, and only a few stage points, teams were spread out over hundreds of miles.