Is "Thrills and Spills" Harming Gravity Racing?
"Thrills and spills" always pulls in the crowds, but is this really in the best interests of soapbox racing? Red Bull Soapbox has raised the profile of cartie racing, but at what cost? Has it given an expectation of spectacular crashes that is not sustainable in the long term from a health and safety point of view? Given the difficulty events are now having in getting insurance cover, perhaps we should move away from designing courses with obstacles that make them more dangerous?
With the popularity and high profile of races such as the Red Bull Soapbox Race, there has been a sudden increase in races in villages and towns across the UK this year. It seems like there is a new one every week.
Community events with a focus on fun and raising money for good causes are a worthy and laudable objective, and soapbox races offer a great way to do just that, but unfortunately there is a problem...
The desire to involve as many people as possible means that organisers avoid rules which seem "too complicated" in favour of simpler build requirements, and in order to entertain the crowds they add ramps and other obstacles to the course to promote "thrills and spills". Little or no consideration seems to be given to what is being asked of the competitors.
To put it simply, teams with limited experience are being encouraged to race on courses which have been deliberately designed to make them crash - often at high speed. The racers they build have little or no testing, and quite frequently have very poor brakes and inherently unstable steering. Many struggle to even travel in a straight line, and when required to brake hard or change direction at speed they often lose control.
Of course, this produces the required "thrills and spills", and everyone has a great laugh. Until someone gets badly hurt, and then it's not so much fun.I have learned many things about soapbox racing over the years, but the single most important thing is this;
You can have simple rules.
You can have high speed / thrills and spills.
You can have a safe event.
But you only get to choose two out of those three.