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With only one week to go until the 20th anniversary Festival of Speed (11-14 July) opens its doors to over 185,000 spectators, a familiar set of Festival favourite vehicles are set to return to Goodwood, with the Soapbox Challenge.
More than 25 soapbox racers will make a welcome reappearance at Goodwood as part of the Festival’s celebrations of the finest, strangest and most iconic vehicles to have graced the 1.16-mile hillclimb tarmac over the past two decades.
Through the Festival, Goodwood essentially re-invented four-wheeled gravity racing in Britain with the Soapbox Challenge, which ran from 2000 to 2004. The Soapbox Challenge was one of the quietest, yet most hotly-contested, events in the Festival’s 20-year history.
The simple soapbox racer rules were powered by gravity, maximum dimensions of 170cm long by 75cm wide, with a maximum weight of 165kg, including the driver, and all for a total cost of under £1,000. Over the five Festivals in which it ran, Goodwood Soapbox Challenge entrants displayed some incredible ingenuity, along with much bending of the rules, including some of the participating F1 teams allegedly wind tunnel testing their soapboxes, and using ‘salvaged’ expensive materials such as carbon fibre!
From a silent standing start just above the famous Goodwood Flint Wall, the soapboxes shot down the Festival hillclimb, with some reaching speeds of 70 mph before crossing the finish line in front of Goodwood House. Over the years, as the cars and their creators became more ingenious and competitive, the number of mishaps and accidents increased, with the fire of competition ultimately burning too brightly with the soapbox teams, causing the chequered flag to finally fall on this much-loved Festival spectacle in 2004.
Famous drivers steering these gravity racers over the years included Sir Stirling Moss, Barry Sheene, Perry McCarthy, Tiff Needell and musician Jay Kay. Soapboxes returning for the 2013 Festival include the Rolls-Royce Typhoon, McLaren MP4/T5, Lotus Type 199, Porsche Speedster II, Ford Centennial Flyer and Bugatti Petit Tank.
The soapboxes will do a demonstration run down the Festival Hill on Saturday and Sunday, and will be displayed around the wishing well, near the BlackRock Drivers Club entrance, every day.