What’s Soapbox racing and why was it a hit in Hyderabad?

A car crash isn’t fun.

But it could be, if your car is built like a soapbox and if you are at Hyderabad’s Ramanaidu Studios for the recent Red Bull Soapbox Race 2024.

It was smooth sailing for some, but for others, it was a drive full of ups and downs as 28 five-member teams from across the country assembled their own cars and manoeuvred their way downhill at the track.

Soapbox racing, for the uninitiated, revolves around teams battling it out in non-motorised vehicles that they have designed themselves. The objective is to plummet down a hill using gravity and avoid any obstacles that the track might have en route. Born in 2000 in Belgium, the race has been organised in more than 50 countries, with over four million spectators catching up on the thrilling action, creatively-designed cars and, sometimes, memorable crashes too.

To the finish line

Hyderabad witnessed all that during the latest edition of the race, with teams displaying a lot of creativity not just in the racing but also in the making of their machines. From 3,300 registrations across India from 23 different states, the final 28 carts drove down the slopes of Hyderabad in style.

A car races down the track at the Soapbox Race 2024

A car races down the track at the Soapbox Race 2024
| Photo Credit:
Johan Sathyadas

 

Like team Kith and Kin 2.0, which had come from Mumbai and ended up in the second place, not very far behind title winner Kraken Wagen from Hyderabad. Introducing Kith and Kin was Kirsten Gonsalves, a self-confessed old-school team that consisted of his family members. “My dad, my sister, my cousin and my brother-in-law are here,” he beams, pointing out to them. Kith and Kin based their snazzy-looking green vehicle on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles concept because “we are all ‘90s kids, and we don’t like these new-age cartoons.”

Team Kith and Kin 2.0 at the Soapbox Race 2024

Team Kith and Kin 2.0 at the Soapbox Race 2024
| Photo Credit:
Johan Sathyadas

 

Kirsten was Shredder, and his sister, Aquilia, was Donatello. “All the costumes were made with Amazon and Myntra boxes, so we have been as sustainable as we can. Every part of our cart moves.”

Like them, the Buttmobile – a team dressed as Justice League superheroes – also took the sustainability route. “Our cart is full of crap, literally. They are completely re-purposed to fit the cart,” shows off Komal Mekala, strutting around as Superwoman. Other whacky teams included Team Dholamite, which modelled their cart based on the musical instrument ‘dhol’, and a biryani-based cart, because, well, the team members hailed from Hyderabad.

A team car at the Soapbox Race 2024

A team car at the Soapbox Race 2024
| Photo Credit:
Johan Sathyadas

 

The best moves

Judging these carts were some eminent sportspersons, including chess champion Tania Sachdev, hockey player Manpreet Singh and racer Harith Noah, among others. Tania, known for her brilliant moves on the chess board, describes the event as “crazy”, but delved deep into the design of the machines, basis which she ranked them. “I looked out for creativity. Not just in the making of the machine, but also in the little performances that the teams put up before they hit the track.”

Tania hopes to come back for another season, but as a participant. “I will design my car as a knight-shaped car and it will gallop to the finish line,” she smiles proudly.

Harith Noah did exactly that, when he test-rode a bike on the track before the start of the race. The first Indian racer to win the Rally 2 class at the prestigious Dakar Rally, Harith feels that such fun events will showcase the concept of racing to wider audiences. “Mostly, when I go to races, it’s all serious faces and everyone’s trying to focus and win. But this was about creativity and entertainment and not just about speeding your way downhill,” says Harith.

Manpreet Singh, who looked out for teamwork among the participants, singles out a team called Ourange Juice Gang for their energy and zing. Manpreet sums it up saying, “Like in hockey, team unity was important here too.”

The writer was in Hyderabad at the invitation of Red Bull

Harith Noah

Harith Noah

 

“When you go for races, it’s mostly serious faces. People are always trying to win. But this was fun and about creativity.”Harith NoahRacer

Tania Sachdev

Tania Sachdev

 

“If I made a car, I would design it like a knight, and it will gallop to the finish line.”Tania SachdevChess player

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