Photo Essay

Quick shots from the hip: Soapbox Racers

Red Bull Soapbox Race 2007 #7

The 2007 Red Bull Soapbox Race in Providence, RI was an amazing show of fanatical inspiration. Sixty-one different teams created an astonishing array of vehicles for this event. Teams were judged based on speed, creativity, and showmanship. The cars ranged from a hot dog, to a shower and toilet; from a calculator, to a Viking ship. The creativity of the participants was boundless and the enthusiasm the teams displayed was even more fanatical than their creations! Prizes were awarded based on the judges selections and a "people's choice" was determined based on text messaged votes from the public.

Don't be fooled by all this wonderful ingenuity though, there are rules to this sport that each team must follow. When you consider the guidelines that each vehicle needs to follow, the results of their work are even more mind-blowing. The cars must be no more than 176 pounds (not including the driver), human powered, less than six-feet wide, less than 20 feet long, and no more than seven feet tall. Some of them were very small, but others were really close to the max dimensions allowed. Many achieved speeds in excess of 30 miles per hour, which is very fast on this course. The level of craftsmanship displayed was remarkable. These cars must have taken months of hard labor to build.

Before the race started, the "pits" were open for two hours so the approximately 50,000 spectators could get a close look at the participants and vote for their favorite team. Armed with my two favorite Lomo cameras, the Diana+ and the Holga 120CFN, I made my way through the throngs of people to try to catch a few glimpses of their unique fabrications. As other photographers snapped away using their digital cameras, the participants were all too happy to pose for my strange plastic cameras. What better way to capture these fanatics than with the sources of my own obsession?

The location where the event was held, College Hill on the East Side of Providence, was home of the original Extreme Games (later known as the X Games) in 1995 and 1996. These hills are very steep and the turns are very sharp. When the race started, some cars crashed into the sides of the course and a few were not able to finish! After each car ended its downhill run, the judges raise their scores Olympic style into the air. I was lucky enough to have a front row spot to view the race to capture the cars coming down with the Holga and some 800 ISO Fuji film. There were so many others viewing the race, I could not see the vehicles coming down until they were right in front of me! This led to some interesting photos to say the least! The crowd around me would yell and I would click the Holga's shutter, hoping for the best.

This year's winners were: 1) The Good, The Bad, and The Nerdy (the calculator), 2) Deuces Wild (the shower and toilet), 3) Road Killers (the Red Sox). The People's Choice winner was Valhalla Express (the Viking ship). Congratulations to all the participants, I enjoyed all of your creations and feel privileged to have captured so many on film. Perhaps next year, as a friend suggested, I should create a Diana camera shaped car and race myself!

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