The leading solar car competing in the World Solar Challenge has burst into flames, forcing the team out of the race for the first time in 20 years.
- The Vattenfall solar car caught alight just south of Port Augusta
- The solar car was this morning leading the World Solar Challenge
- The team has shared its devastation on social media but said the driver was safe
The solar car – from the Vattenfall Solar Team – caught alight on the Stuart Highway, just south of Port Augusta this morning, just 263 kilometres from the Adelaide finish line.
The Dutch team posted on social media moments earlier that it had only 360 kilometres to go to finish the race, before confirming the "accident" just before 10:00 am.
The fire has left Belgian team Agoria in the box seat to claim its first ever victory, having been just a couple of minutes behind the leaders this morning.
Vattenfall Solar Team tweet: With a very heavy heart we have to tell you that our World Solar Challenge is over.
"Unfortunately we have an accident. It looks like everybody is okay. We will keep you updated as soon as we know more," the team posted on Twitter.
The team said no-one was hurt in the incident, but confirmed that its race was over.
"With a very heavy heart we have to tell you that our World Solar Challenge is over," it posted.
"A first 'did not finish' for Nuna in 20 years. Driver Team is okay and got our [sic] of the vehicle in time. "
The team shared its devastation, and said it was trying to work out what had happened to cause the fire.
"The team is devastated … currently managing the fires and figuring out what happened," it said.
Another team competing in the race, Solar Team Twente, also posted on social media following the incident, saying it was deeply shocked.
"We are glad to hear that the driver got out of the car and is safe. If we can do anything please let us know," the team said.
Members of the Vattenfall team hug each other following the fire which has ruled them out of the race. (Twitter: VattenfallTeam)
Solar Team Twente's car was one of three solar cars forced off the road yesterday due to strong winds, with one driver taken to hospital as a precaution.
There are 44 teams, made up of mostly university students, from more than 30 countries competing in this year's challenge.
The teams set off from Darwin on Monday on the 3,000 kilometer track to Adelaide.
The race has been held biennially since 1987, promoting sustainability and solar technology.