10-08-05 01:42pm PDT
As Stanley enters the final stretch, just 7 miles from apparent victory, there's palpable disappointment among teams knocked out in the earlier rounds, but also a kind of relief. Knowing they don't have to wait around with bated breath, they're free to relax and watch the tail end of the competition.
Fate seemed particularly cruel to Team ENSCO when its bot, Dexter, popped a flat, but advisor Lloyd Griffiths is convinced the accident wasn't just a fluke-it might have been the direct result of a control system failure. "We might have done a sharp turn to get around an obstacle and hit a rock or something," he says. Now that Dexter has been eliminated, Griffiths is rooting for Stanford. "They've got a great team and great student involvement."
"Overall, the bot is fine-it looks like a wire came loose and caused some kind of mechanical problem," says Team DAD's Bruce Hall, whose modified Toyota Tundra was knocked out before reaching the halfway point of the course. "But we had a good run. Right now, we're enjoying just sitting back and seeing how this thing plays out."
10-08-05 1:25 pm PDT
Joyful cheers filled tent city as media, spectators, and team crews huddled around TV monitors showing live feed of Stanley taking on the treacherous Beer Bottle Pass.
"This is more exciting than we ever dreamed," exclaimed on spectator.
Stanley, followed closely by a chase truck, shrugged off the narrow path and hundred-foot drop off and gracefully navigated the pass with as much reckless abandon as 10 mile an hour speeds allow.
While Stanley navigated Beer Bottle Pass like a pro, there were a few tenuous moments as he grazed the edge of the path, causing some on-lookers to hold their breath ever so briefly.
This was the first view many have had of Stanely in over five hours, and his friendly blue paint has been obscured by the desert's dust, rendering him virtually unrecognizable. The next time he comes into view will be at the finish line, just seven miles away.
H1ghlander and Sandstorm are still moving along at a decent clip as they approach Beer Bottle Pass, although it appears that neither will be able to catch Stanley.