In a town internationally renowned for horseracing, Newmarket’s Town Council brings you an alternative form of racing in the form of the Soapbox Derby. We speak to Cllr John Borda who is one of organisers of this quirky event being held on Sunday 29th August at 1 pm.
What actually is a Soap Box Derby?
Basically, it is a cart race along a pre-determined route, with the fastest vehicle winning. The name “Soapbox” originated from self-propelled carts that children made from wooden soap crates and pram wheels. Whilst primitive, they can achieve speeds of up to 112 km/h and our famed Warren Hill provides a natural perfect racecourse for this type of event.
How long as it been going?
Here in Newmarket, this is our second event, having not been able to hold one last year due to Covid. However, other towns have been holding them for years and we very much intend ours to become a key annual event on the town’s calendar.
Can anyone enter?
Absolutely. You just need some creative skills and the ability to make a cart suitable for racing. The course is 400 metre down the famed Warren Hill with a few obstacles to deal with on route, so it helps if you are a natural thrill seeker as this activity is not for the faint hearted. The event is an excellent way to promote yourself if you are representing a business or organisation or just want to take part in a great community event.
Are their rules to follow in designing a cart?
Oh yes, there must be, in order to keep it fair but also safe. The basics are that your vehicle must have wheels, some sort of steering mechanism, and brakes! It also can’t have an engine (in case that isn’t obvious). It must be fit for purpose and pre-race inspections are carried out a month before as well as on the day.
What makes a winning cart then?
If you want to get technical then it is all about aerodynamics and the smoother and sleeker your vehicle, the faster it will go. However, we witnessed all sorts of carts in the first year and whilst some may not have moved at great speeds, they did provide the crowd with some great entertainment.
Newmarket has recently seen the return of Ladies Day at the July Festival. Can we expect equal levels of fashion and flair at the Derby?
Well practicality tends to come first amongst our competitors but there is a judging category for the Best Turned Out Cart, so yes you can score points for presentation and appearance. Plus, this year we are encouraging all the participants to go wild and dress up as it all adds to the entertainment and of course we welcome the same from the spectators!
What are the other categories?
The main trophy goes to the fastest cart, naturally, but as well as the appearance, we also present an award for the cart that is the best technically designed.
How many teams will be competing on the day?
We have nearly 20 teams entered so there will be plenty of action.
What should we expect to see on the day?
Obviously, the timed races are the main event, and we are expecting Warren Hill to be lined with thousands of spectators cheering the carts along. It is a mixture of breath taking moments as some carts fly down at speed and moments of great hilarity as some unfortunately lose their wheels and come to a standstill. There is never a dull moment, and the crowd really gets behind each and every cart. In between races, visitors can enjoy the children’s funfair as well as lots of street food, side stalls and music along with a classic car show. It is a great atmosphere and all for free!
Do you need to book a ticket in advance?
We are encouraging people to book in advance so that we can gauge numbers as this will greatly help with our planning. Going on the first year we are expecting crowds in their thousands.
In a nutshell why should someone come along to the event?
To be part of a wonderful community event and have some free, family entertainment. After the year we have had, we all deserve some fun and so we hope everyone will come and join us and support the return of Newmarket’s Soap Box Derby.
Thank you Cllr Borda for enlightening us about this fantastic event. To find out more, click here. We look forward to seeing everyone there!
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