Once upon a time, an innovative team of technical and creative boffins with a passion for detail, style and flair collaborated on a SoapBox kart design! The theme for the kart and crew was based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.
The application was one of thousands, for the hard fought for places on the starting grid – a mere 65 karts raced on the day. This event does not happen every year! The application required creative skills in scoping out the design of costumes and characters, as well as the kart itself. We submitted our application as pure novices, quite expecting to be let down gently, but to our amazement we had secured a place!
Uggh, that means the real work starts! None of the team had any experience in kart-building, welding, metalwork or costume-designing! We just had bags of ideas, enthusiasm and increasing levels of RedBull!
To say that it was challenging getting the kart built would be an understatement, but made possible only with support, gratefully received, from friends and family as well as Clearswift, the primary employer of the competing team; everyone involved in the construction did an amazing job of customising a strong frame from a kit of bike parts – so it even had working brakes! First push of the complete, but naked, three wheeled frame and it was immediately evident that this was going to be a fast kart!
The decorative construction was extremely difficult – as we were struggling to add bits securely. A common problem experienced by SoapBox Kart racers apparently - there was a weight limit to be conscious of too!
However the “Clockwork Rabbit” team from Clearswift, which included a Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Axe-man, Queen of Hearts and Alice performed magically on Sunday 12th July during the Red Bull Soapbox race at Alexandra Palace, London. The kart was adorned with cogs, ratchets, springs and a bunny tail which was also the keyhole; a large golden key inserted by the cheeky Cheshire Cat. The key was turned and the team, plus kart, were all wound up for a spectacular run down the scariest, most-hazardous and thrilling track extending over 400m in length. Dropping 40m over such a short distance would be enough to scare most of us, and make us to turn tail or hit the brakes! Alice knew she had to also skilfully negotiate several mean obstacles: comprising jumps of increasing height/length; bone-shakers; tight turns; straw bale obstacles and chicanes. Several karts were to meet their fate in a straw bale or on a jump that day.
After a 20 second performance at the start line, the rabbit escaped the clutches of the Queen of Hearts; chased by the Axe-man, the kart hit the first jump with precise control and weight management by both pilot (Alice) and co-pilot (Mad-hatter). Like clockwork, the rabbit negotiated every hazard with speed, accuracy and flair; ticking one off after another down the course. Probably the highest flying kart of the day!
The Clockwork Rabbit managed 13th place for speed and leapt to a great height over the final jump! It was cheered on by the crowds despite being thought the initial “under-rabbit (dog)” of the day. Perhaps it was a fox in rabbit’s clothing after all?! The teams we faced were fierce and extremely experienced competitors, yet they proved to be a respectable competitor on the tracks – Alice’s driving was clearly brake free and was seen smiling with excitement jumping over the various obstacles. A truly awesome ride leading to a monumental crash, fortunately not till after the finish line, but the accumulated speed proved simply too much for those brakes after all…
The costumes were a huge hit and the Cheshire Cat costume was commented as being “one of the best at the race”. The bright purple hat and his zany antics on the track were met with huge roars of delight from the 20,000 strong spectators. The Cheshire Cat was beautifully captured on film, leaping over the ramp displaying “REDBULL GIVES YOU WIIINGS”, the commentator complementing this hat toting cat as ‘one of the most colourful characters of the day’.
The team members are looking forward to the next race! Check out the antics on our Facebook page.
Watch the race on DaveTV (UK viewers only)
What’s more…it’s all for a good cause. The team managed to raise in excess of £380 for Thames Valley Air ambulance and hope to add more to the pot for their nominated charity during the coming weeks.