In 2021, it was a duel between two velomobiles that ended after 12,000 km / 7,500 miles with a difference of only 3 hours. This year, it’s a race between a velomobile piloted by 2021 winner Jean-Marc Dubouloz, and a two-wheeled recumbent ridden by Jack Butler, who took part in the 2018 Sun Trip race to Canton, China. After more than 6,000 km / 3,750 miles, the gap between them is insignificant, with only two or three days at most to go.

It’s an incredible race with many twists and turns. Just few days after the start of the Sun Trip, Jean-Marc had problems and lost his clear and expected lead before the Pyrenees. Jack could hardly believe it and started to fight hard, but he only held his position as leader for less than three days. Then in the south of Spain, extreme winds caused another twist. Literally. Jean-Marc was blown away with his velomobile and his solar panels were damaged, which have only provided around 75% of their power since. So instead of 480 watts, just 360 watts. This at least somewhat evened out the solar gains of both riders,, as Jack only has one 310 Wp panel mounted on his AZUB SIX. Suddenly rider performance, overall weight, aerodynamics, wind and weather became the deciding factors. Jack Butler films throughout the race and in the evenings he edits and posts videos on his YouTube channel, in which he explains perfectly how all these factors affect the race.

Jan-Marc’s WAW velomobile has, of course, an aerodynamic advantage, which theoretically shouldn’t give it a much higher top speed, as all motor stop helping racers at 45 km/h, but it will certainly be an advantage in both long and steep descents. And the overall economy of the velomobile will certainly be less on the flats and downhill. In the hills, however, it’s different. The velomobile is heavier, which is an obvious downside. But this was not the case on the highest climb of the race to Tizi-n-Test pass in Morocco at 2,093 metres / 6,867 ft, where Jean-Marc almost incomprehensibly caught up with Jack.

If it doesn’t shine, the recumbent again has the advantage. If it’s blowing in the back, the aerodynamic advantage of the velomobile is also dropped. And then comes strategy, decisions and physical and mental stamina. Not least the rider’s organisation and how many hours a day they can sit in the saddle. In fact, the rules specify the time from when, until when riders can be on the road and in total it is a maximum of 14 hours a day.

After said pass, in the town of Taroudant, after the two had completed the 24-hour compulsory break together, another plot twist occurred. On leaving the town, WAW was in the lead, followed by Jack Butler on his AZUB SIX. Jean-Marc had to stop suddenly in the velomobile, Jack was not 100% concentrated and rear-ended Jean-Marc. Everything was resolved with understanding , the race continued in full swing and the jury only made a short statement about it with the possibility of a future repair of the velomobile, during which Jack would have to remain standing. However, Jean-Marc did not take this option.

Subsequently, there was a difference in route for the next time, with Jack choosing the more mountainous part of Morocco, but gaining nothing on Jean-Marc. On the contrary. On the ferry from Africa back to European soil was the first velomobile and it looked like Jack wasn’t even going to make it on that ferry. But he did. At the last minute and without a ticket he bought on the board.

And in a similar vein, they both continued on through Spain. Today Jack is sleeping in the Pyrenees and Jean-Marc is again on a different route near Barcelona. Jack has a clear, if small, lead. But whether he can maintain it for the next 550 km / 340 miles to the finish in Chambéry, France is a big question mark.

An analysis by a father and son who have both completed the Sun Trip and were also in Morocco last year with their experimental solar-powered recumbent quad tandem might give us a clue. Read hereunder in the shared Facebook post.

In short, it’s a battle, and you can follow it live on the map here or on the Sun Trip Facebook page. The race is described in the previous article here.



In the following video Jack Butler with an AZUB SIX is a purple dot, Jean-Marc Dubouloz with a WAW velomobile is a red one.