Last Sunday the Red Bull Soapbox Race returned to Alexandra Palace in London two years since the event last passed through the capital. I was lucky enough to be able to get tickets to go and see the madness along with 20,000 other spectators. 67 teams from all across the UK entered the fastest soapbox course of the year in a bid to send their homemade karts down to victory, or in many cases, their doom.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Soapbox Race or even a soapbox, let me give you a simple guide to the event. A soapbox is a gravity powered kart with very basic steering and limited braking. And that’s all there is too it, anyone can build one and enter it into the competition just as long as it meets the size and weight specifications. No expertise is needed and teams from all backgrounds are welcome. This year’s teams ranged from school leavers to fighter pilots, farmers to celebrities and everything in between.
You may be thinking that the rules are straight forward i.e. fastest time will win. But no, the teams are judged across three categories and the highest score overall will reveal a winner. The first category is Creativity. The look and design of the soapbox and the costumes of the team, the more creative and outlandish the higher the score. The second category is Showmanship. Each team has to perform a 20 second piece before each run; this usually involves lots of bad dancing and awkward acting but it’s all in the name of fun. The third and final category is of course the course time (it is a race after all). Once the scores have been added up, the winner is the team with the highest overall score. Simple.
This year, as with last time, there were three celebrity judges; Aimee Fuller, an Olympic snowboarder, Bas Keep, a professional BMX rider and Andrew Jordan, a BTCC driver and championship winner. A fourth judge is picked from the crowd on the day, chosen through the medium of Twitter and is swapped throughout the day.
The course this year was a gruelling 420m downhill track littered with four ramps designed to test the courage of the driver and the quality of the soapboxes. The London course is the fastest soapbox course of the year with competitors dropping 40meteres from start to finish line and reaching speeds of over 30mph, which is mighty brave with no brakes. The theme of the course was the Industrial Revolution which compared to previous efforts seemed a bit naff but that’s just my opinion. The jumps however did not disappoint. The first ramp, The Piston, was designed to give the soapboxes more speed as they hurtled towards the second obstacle, Steelworks, a launch ramp aimed at giving airtime to the flimsy karts. The third ramp was Bone Rattler, three mini ramps combined into one to rattle the bones of the riders (Duh!!) The final ramp, The Factory was aimed solely at showboating as soapboxes passed over it with a flourish of smoke for added drama and gained big airtime before a heavy landing before the finish line.
There were some brilliant soapboxes this year as ever and the amount of passion and dedication some teams put into the design is amazing. Especially considering the soapbox could be reduced to ruins in less than 30 seconds. Months of blood, sweat and tears go in and a broken soapbox is what remains… if you are lucky. Some people reading this may think that it whole event is pointless but that is exactly the point of it. It is a cheap escape from ordinary life for a couple of months and gives pleasure to thousands of spectators. It is mad and bonkers and stupid but that is the appeal of the event. I admire the teams that enter and one day wish to enter my own soapbox but for now, I am happy enough watching these fools recklessly throw themselves down the highest point in London.
After all 67 teams reached the bottom of the course, with or without a soapbox, the judges retired and the podium positions decided. The winners were The Breakfast Club, a team entered by Absolute Radio and who were deserved winners with their homage to the 80’s with their shape shifting soapbox. Below are the results;
1st- The Breakfast Club
2nd-The Lancashire Witch
3rd -The S Team
Oh, and there is no huge cash prize either, just a trophy and a couple of bruises and cuts for the winners. It’s just an afternoon of watching people hurt themselves which shows just how morbid the public are. I highly recommend going next time Red Bull roll into town.