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CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - A solar car made by students from Japan's Tokai University was on Wednesday named the winner of a 3,000 km (1,864 miles) race across the Australian outback which aimed to show that green cars can also be mean.
The Tokai Challenger crossed the finish line just north of Adelaide on Wednesday afternoon after a smooth run, with one flat tire the only issue along the way.
"The victory by Tokai Challenger is the first by a Japanese team since 1993 when the event was won by Honda Dream II," said the organizers of the 2009 Global Green Challenge, a race of solar cars held in Australia every two years.
The Tokai Challenger had started the event in fourth position as a fleet of 31 solar-powered cars from 16 countries set off from Darwin last Saturday, a showcase of prototype solar cars.
But the Japanese car went into the lead at the end of the first day, ahead of favorites Michigan University's Infinium and the Netherlands' Nuna V.
On day one, Belgium's Umicar Inspire from the Umicore Solar Team crashed 380 kms into the race after losing control during to a wind gust. The car was withdrawn from the event.
Race spokesman Mike Drewer said the second and third running cars are expected to cross the finish line on Thursday morning.
The solar race, staged every two years since 1987, was this year joined by another event, the Eco Challenge, in which 17 cars from 10 manufacturers are competing with eco-friendly vehicles to prove which is the most fuel-efficient. This race is expected to finish on Saturday.
Competitors included the all-electric Tesla sports car, vehicles made by Ford, Kia, Honda, Hyundai, BMW, Skoda, Suzuki, Holden, and HSV, and a modified Honda postman's scooter running on alcohol.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy