Interlude: Red Bull Soapbox Race, Taipei 2013

While I was staying near Taipei, Red Bull hosted the first Red Bull Soapbox Race in Taiwan, so I dropped everything and headed on over to watch. Even though I grew up in the states, I have never seen a soapbox race before (*cough* deprived childhood *cough*), so my first race was in Taiwan – not exactly known for its soapbox racing. Results… were decidedly mixed. But I got on national television! Of Taiwan!
Soapbox race - portrait

First, the race. Soapbox races by definition must be held on a hill – with no engine of any sort, each soapbox cart must rely on a gravity for propulsion. So, a hill. In this case, the Taiwan National University for the Arts (國立臺灣藝術大學), which has a long, narrow street at a slight incline. Unfortunately, narrowness of the street meant that it was quite crowded, and very difficult to stand alongside the race and watch the carts go by.
Soapbox race - misc cart 1 Soapbox race - misc cart 2

Most people had to settle for sitting in a field and watching the race on the big screen, through the lens of the TV cameras:
Soapbox race - race on the big screen

This was probably the best view; watching the big screen, you could not only see the pre-race interviews and performances, but also the entire course of the race as the soapbox carts tried to navigate various obstacles.

Other people used the nearby school building, watching from the roof and climbing out of open windows.
Soapbox race - audience on building

Me, I found a small building halfway along the racetrack, and climbed onto the roof through a well-placed ladder.
Soapbox race - roof access

Here, I had a pretty good view of the racetrack – or about 1/20 of it. Or at least, I did, until Officer Anti-Fun decided that to shoo all of us off the roof. Some people.
Soapbox race - portrait on roof Soapbox race - misc cart 3

Anyways, back to the race. For this race, prior each contestant zooming off down the track, they would be given a quick interview (“what was your motivation for this design?”) and given time to perform a quick skit, before pushing their soapbox cart to start down the hill.

Here are some of the soapbox carts – the red bull cart, a train, a paraglider, a loveseat, and a canoe:

I missed taking photos of some of the most interesting ones – a pencil (which won the race), a giant Buddha face (with a performance by a cadre of Buddhist priests), a bowl of beef noodle soup, but that’s what Google is for, isn’t it?

After navigating past several obstacles (turning, avoiding bales of hay, ramps), the soapbox cart would meander down to the finish line. Or at least, they would try – at least half of the carts crashed and burned (figuratively). I was positioned right by a pit stop, where I could see organizers wheel out crashed carts:

Also fun was seeing the organizers organizers move aside the hay bales, bringing out the carts to wheel out totaled vehicles.
Soapbox race - ready for crashed cart 1 Soapbox race - ready for crashed cart 2

Neither this watermelon cart, nor the watermelon-dressed racers, made it:
Soapbox race - crashed cart watermelon riders Soapbox race - crashed cart watermelon

Others chose to simply run down to the finish line after their carts crashed and burned:
Soapbox race - running down the track

Oh, and being on national television? It’s true. While watching the race from the roof, a television crew got a shot of me and my iconic hat – and we made the evening news!
soapbox race - Jonathan on TV

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