Collegiate Teams Crash and Burn

Red Bull quite literally gave soapbox racers wings in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday.

With vehicles designed in the shape of a Tapatio hot sauce bottle, a banana hammock and the famous Nintendo dinosaur Yoshi, the Red Bull Soapbox Race displayed a great deal of creativity, excitement and crashes in front of a crowd of more than 111,000 people. Despite the soaring temperatures, people swarmed the streets to catch a glimpse of the race, with some spectators perched on trees and stoplights to get a better view.

Young Kim | Daily Trojan

Young Kim | Daily Trojan

Los Angeles is the latest host of the Red Bull Soapbox Race, a competition for innovative thrill-seekers that first began in Belgium in 2000. Since its inception, the Red Bull Soapbox Race has hosted races in 30 countries, including Austria, England, Jamaica, the Czech Republic and Australia.

The event showcased the infamous USC vs. UCLA rivalry, with the USC Phi Kappa Psi team ready to beat Team Bruins in its soapbox designed in the shape of a chariot with tiny stuffed Bruins dragging behind on ropes.

According to Phi Psi’s driver senior Ryan Arango, the team’s soapbox took a total of 48 hours to construct.

“It required a lot of runs to Home Depot and cutting two bikes in half with a skill saw,” Arango said.

The UCLA team’s soapbox, on the other hand, was designed in the shape of a bear with a “Beware of Bruins” sign on the bumper; a driver dressed as a bear completed the theme.

With USC set as the 24th team to race, followed by UCLA at number 25, the two teams were located next to each other in Pit Row, drawing large cheering crowds supporting their favorite university and perpetuating the rivalry.

While Arango and co-pilot junior Clark Claydon seemed excited about the race, their vehicle did not have a working brake on one side. This caused some concern when they were racing down a track with steep drops, high speeds and a 90-degree turn.

“Our biggest challenge was designing a steering mechanism that could handle our need for speed,” said Phi Psi’s team captain senior Chad Greene.

Geo Tu | Daily Trojan

But like most teams racing that day, both the USC and UCLA vehicles ended up crashing before the finish line — but still earned loud cheers from the audience.

Crashing, however, is not as tragic as it seems at this soapbox race. The soapbox teams are not judged on the time it takes to reach the finish line, but are evaluated on speed, creativity and showmanship. Despite experiencing several crashes throughout the race, teams such as The Eager Beavers earned high points for their agility, design, innovation and, of course, the audience’s response to the extreme crashes at turns and into the haystacks toward the end of the race.

The winning team on Saturday — San Francisco’s Team Ironhead — raced at a phenomenal speed of 46.1 mph. They officially marked their territory in the Red Bull Soapbox Race record books for racing at the fastest speed ever. As the winning team, it also won a VIP NASCAR experience with the Red Bull Racing Team.

With football set aside for just a few hours, the Red Bull Soapbox Race provided universities with the opportunity to contest their college rivalries in a creative, fun-filled environment. The Los Angeles cityscape was the backdrop, and the event garnered more spectators than the maximum capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. In addition to USC and UCLA, teams from Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge, Loyola Marymount University, Oregon State University and the University of North Texas all participated to promote their school pride.

But whether it’s a soapbox race, volleyball tournament or a plain old Tuesday, USC always attracts a crowd of fans supporting them in their next football game. With the USC vs. Washington State football game later that evening, USC Trojans chanted, “Beat the Cougars!” in full swing throughout the race. When asked about his plans later that evening, Claydon said, “As long as I’m not in the hospital, I will be at the game tonight.”

1 reply
  1. vinman
    vinman says:

    I was there and visited the pit area before the race and I gotta say as an alum I was embarassed with the entry representing the school. I mean seriously, couldn’t they have put a call out to the campus to get some help putting the thing together. It was literally exposed two by fours jerry-rigged on top of bicycle wheels. I know it was grass roots and all, but I think the local high school science club would have done a much more credible job. The rig fell apart before they even got halfway down the hill.

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