Thousands of excited Calgarians gathered in front of the Olympic Oval as the University of Calgary welcomed the teamsfinishing the 2005 North American Solar Challenge.
The University of Michigan finished first overall, with the University of Minnesota a close second, after missing a red light near the university. The U of C's Soleon team finished 13th out of 18 teams.
"It's the greatest thing in the world, the engineers have designed a beautiful car and we had some stiff competition out there," University of Michigan driver Joe Belter stated. "It's been amazing."
Despite a last-minute rerouting, teams received a warm reception as Calgarians lined the streets to take pictures and cheer them on.
"There's a huge number of people here, and everyone was stopped along the route to actually watch as we were coming in, so that was really nice," commented University of Missouri-Rolla driver Dan Ryley.
"We had the streets lined all the way in here, people were across the bridges, on the sidewalks, in the gas stations, we had people 50 miles out on Highway 1 watching," University of Minnesota driver John Wanner explained.
"This is the biggest crowd we've ever had, a very fitting finish to this race," said Richard King, a representative of the US Department of Energy, noting this year's route was the longest in the race's history and the first time the race crossed an international border.
After 4,000 kilometres of racing, many teams were relieved to have the process come to a conclusion. While the U of C team spent only nine months and used a quarter of the budget of the leading teams, most other teams had up to two years to plan, construct, test and prepare their vehicles.
The loudest reception was saved for the home team, who met thunderous applause as they ran with Soleon across the finish line. The team was mobbed by the crowd as soon as it pulled into the finish area in front of the Olympic torch.
"It's unbelievable, the crowd coming in," said Rashaad Sader, U of C Solar Team manager. "I'm still a little bit shaky actually, it's just really cool to have the support of the university and the city, so we're pretty excited."
"To be given the honour to bring the car in for everybody at home here is just spectacular," noted driver Kyle Rebryna, who was given the traditional Gatorade shower by his teammates as he leapt from Soleon.
Even though the U of C did not finish in the top 10, they have gained the respect of other teams.
"They did very well today, and did amazing for a rookie team," said Principia College driver Emily Moeller. "I hope to see [the U of C team] again."
Campus Security Assistant Manager Ken Kress estimated 3,000 people were in attendance at the finish line.