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A Wacky Races convoy of solar cars has set off on a gruelling 2,000-mile race through Australia’s outback.

The World Solar Challenge race from Darwin to Adelaide is expected to take about a week for most of the 42 vehicles competing.

Powered only by the sun, the cars can reach speeds of between 55mph and 62mph (90kph to 100kph).

Reigning champions Nuon from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands are hoping to retain their prize.

Solar Team Twente's RED Shift vehicle from the Netherlands

Image: Solar Team Twente’s RED Shift vehicle from the Netherlands

Turkish entry B.O.W. Istanbul leaves the start line in Darwin

Image: Turkish entry B.O.W. Istanbul leaves the start line in Darwin

Nuon’s tour manager, Sarah Bennink Bolt, said: “All the cars look completely different (this year), and all we know is we’ve got a good car, we’ve got it running perfectly the last couple of days and we’re confident we’re going to do everything to win.”

Tokai crosses a cattle grid in Elliott, NT

Image: Tokai crosses a cattle grid in the Northern Territory town of Elliott

Canada's Blue Sky Solar Racing team entered with Polaris

Image: Canada’s Blue Sky Solar Racing team entered with Polaris

Belgian team Punch Powertrain earned the right to start first on Sunday after a trial time of two minutes and three seconds over a 1.78 mile (2.97km) course, hitting an average speed of 51.5mph (83.4kph).

A British entry built by a team at Cambridge University had to withdraw before the event started because the vehicle was damaged during testing.

Kogakuin University's Wing vehicle races from Darwin to Katherine

Image: Kogakuin University’s Wing vehicle races from Darwin to Katherine

Another Japanese entry - NITech Solar's Horizon 17

Image: Another Japanese entry – NITech Solar’s Horizon 17

The Cambridge University Eco-Racing team’s Mirage car rolled after suffering “a sudden loss of dynamic stability” – leaving it with “irreparable” damage.

The driver, who was protected by the car’s safety compartment, was treated for “minor abrasions and fractures” in hospital.

The University of Michigan's Novum vehicle

Image: The University of Michigan’s Novum vehicle

Team Twente's vehicle races between Elliott and Tennants Creek

Image: Solar Team Twente’s vehicle races between Elliott and Tennant Creek

Race director Chris Selwood said the biennial event has attracted one of the best fields ever, with teams from more than 40 countries competing over 1,864 miles (3,000km).

He said: “This is the 30th anniversary of the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge and competitors want to be part of that. They have been drawn to the challenge of new regulations which reduced the solar array size without limiting the size of the solar car.”

Teams from countries including the US, Japan, Germany, Chile, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, Sweden, Iran, South Korea, India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Poland, Thailand, Turkey, Canada, Taiwan and Australia are taking part.

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