After 16 years of trying, Belgian team Agoria have finally won their first World Solar Challenge from Darwin to Adelaide after the race leader burst into flames.
The victory for the team's Bluepoint car on Thursday came on a dramatic day on which leaders and defending champions Vattenfall's car NunaX ended up in ashes after catching fire about 260 kilometres from the finish.
The driver escaped unhurt but there was nothing other team members could do but watch their dreams go up in smoke.
"We started racing and then, suddenly, there was smoke coming up into the car," team spokeswoman Emie Clein Holkenborg said.
"We knew it wasn't good at all, so we parked the car as fast as possible and the driver got out as fast as possible.
"We're not sure why that happened, it must be something in the car but we don't know exactly what it was that caused the flames.
"The car doesn't even exist anymore so that's very hard for the team."
Agoria spokesman Willem Jan Claes said the team felt sorry for their Dutch rivals but were just happy the driver got out unscathed.
He said the 3000-kilometre trek across Australia was much harder than he had ever imagined.
"It's crazy. I was prepared for a big challenge but it was way beyond that," he said.
"It's the eighth time that our team has competed and the first time we managed to win.
"So this is what we've worked to for 16 years."
Just minutes after Agoria crossed the line the Japanese team from Tokai University finished in second spot in Tokai Challenger while third place went to the University of Michigan in Electrum.
Agoria covered the 3020 kilometres from Darwin in 34 hours, 52 minutes and 42 seconds for an average speed of 86.6 km/h.
Tokai's time was 12 minutes slower at 86.1 km/h while Michigan averaged 84.4km/h after finishing about three hours behind the winner.
The final day drama for Vattenfall also came after another Dutch crew, Solar Team Twente crashed out of the race while leading on Wednesday as the field was battered by strong winds in South Australia's north.
Organisers said unprecedented wind gusts flipped the team's RED E car just north of Coober Pedy.
The driver was unhurt but was taken to hospital for observation before being released.
Race director Chris Selwood said it was the nature of the challenge that teams would push the boundaries of technology.
"It's an endurance event and there are many things in and out of your control," he said.
Australian Associated Press