Soapbox racers ready to go

Okotoks: Event marking 25th year

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 01:48 pm

Okotoks’ Soapbox Derby racers will hit the road for the 25th anniversary of the annual event on June 7 this weekend.
Okotoks’ Soapbox Derby racers will hit the road for the 25th anniversary of the annual event on June 7 this weekend.
Wheel file photo

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A full rebuild was on order for one local youth, eyeing a top finish at the 25th annual Okotoks Soap Box Derby.

Kaiden Williams has three years experience behind the steering wheel during the event and the 11-years-old has overhauled his racer with the hopes of gaining an edge over the competition this weekend.

“This year I’m making a different cart, this year I’m making it out of wood,” he said. “My last cart had metal and it was a little bit slower, so now we’re building a wooden one so we can make the car go faster.”

Williams will be one of the nearly 100 young racers hurtling down the hill on Crystal Ridge Drive on June 7. Some will be decked out in creative costumes and some carts will boast colourful paint jobs. Others, like Williams, will look more like luge racers, laying flat to go as fast as possible.

Williams came in eighth last year and he’s looking at a top place finish this year.

“I’m hoping to get somewhere between first or second,” he said.

The race is open to children age nine to 14 and prizes will be available in six categories, including best time, and most original costume.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Okotoks Soap Box Derby.

The morning of the event will see a ‘Stampede style’ pancake breakfast held, starting at 8 a.m. to make sure the young drivers hit the track with a full stomach.

While the young racers are the stars of the show, Mark Kharfan, chairperson of the Soapbox derby and owner of Carstar Okotoks, said mom and dad are also playing a bigger role behind the scenes helping their children out preparing for race day. Kharfan said it has given them something they can do together.

“We’ve seen how the parents have really embrace it,” he said.

The parents are even getting into the competition. Kharfan said parents nowadays are coming up with their own formulas of lubricants for the wheels to reduce friction and give their children a little more of an edge against the competition.

The basic kit – the base, the wheels and steering system – is the same for everyone.

That’s where the similarities end and the final creations often showcase the driver’s sense of fun and personality or help fulfill their need for speed.

He said one of the biggest changes they have seen is an evolution to flat carts capable of achieving a higher speed, which young racers drive while laying on their backs.

“It seems to be more aerodynamic,” he said.

The carts can build up some big speeds on the hill, with some clocked at over 40 km per hour.

Andrew Northrop, event co-chair and manager of Okotoks Carstar, said the higher speeds is one of the biggest changes they have seen over the years and it’s becoming more competitive.

“It’s almost like every sport, back in the day you did it for the sport,” he said. “Now it’s the competitiveness of it, the competition, the bragging rights on the street over the fastest car.”

On the other hand, Northrop said a growing number of young drivers are embracing creativity with their carts. Everything from flying carpets, zoos on wheels and even Shaggy, Scooby Do and the Mystery Machine have been seen in the race in recent years.

The first heat starts on June 7 at 10:30 a.m.

Inspection times are June 6 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and June 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The hill will be open for practice runs on June 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and June 7 from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Registration will continue up to the morning of the event.

Rain-out days have been set for June 8 and June 14 in the event of poor weather.


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