The JSE-listed Sasol announced on Thursday that it would be the main sponsor of the biennial race, to be held for the third time in September this year.
Sasol would provide R1.2-million to what would now be called the Sasol Solar Challenge South Africa.
Speaking at the event held in Johannesburg to announce the sponsorship, race directorWinstone Jordaan said he was “very excited” that the race had received Sasol’s corporate backing.
“Sasol is the ideal partner in this challenge as they start exploring solar technology through Sasol New Energy.”
Jordaan added that he was still looking for more corporates to become involved, in order to grow the event’s international stature.
“We have 11 South African teams keen to enter,” he told Engineering News Online. “I am confident six of them will show up at the starting line.”
The list of 11 local teams included the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the University of Johannesburg.
Five international teams are also looking to participate, noted Jordaan.
“We would be happy if we get 10 to 12 teams to enter in total. We don’t expect less than 8, but it could even be 15.”
Building a solar car – powered by the sun through solar panels – is an expensive exercise, noted Jordaan.
The Dutch team from the Delft University of Technology received around R20-million a year to develop and build its vehicle.
Jordaan said the winner of the first two South African solar challenges would return to the country to defend its title – but with an interesting twist in the tale.
Kenjiro Shinozuka, the driver in the twice victorious Tokai University’s winning team, had bought the 2010 race-car from the team and would enter it in the 2012 race with a team of his own. The university, in turn, would travel to South Africa with a new vehicle.
Good news for spectators was that close competitor, the team driving Dutch solar car Nuna, also looked set to participate in the event.
“We will have the number one and two teams in solar car racing in the world in South Africa,” said Jordaan.
South Africa’s solar car race finally has a title sponsor.