The driver’s view: Alex Sum­mers

VANTAGE - - Feature | Soapbox Racer -

‘I COM­PETE IN HILLCLIMBS in my spare time, so I know about pre-race nerves – but this was com­pletely dif­fer­ent. We tried to wan­gle a prac­tice run, but you’re not al­lowed. Hav­ing seen some of the other soap­boxes, I can see why...

De­sign-wise there are ba­sic pack­ag­ing re­stric­tions, in that it has to fit down the course, and Red Bull are keen that peo­ple aren’t putting them­selves in too much dan­ger, but be­yond that it’s pretty much any­thing goes. We de­signed the soapbox with a lot of strength be­cause, even though it’s a bit of fun, we’re rep­re­sent­ing As­ton Martin. We couldn’t have it col­laps­ing at the foot of the start ramp. Watch­ing pre­vi­ous events, I saw that a cou­ple of years back the even­tual win­ner was top­ping 30mph. I thought I had a pretty good idea what to ex­pect, but when I went off the first jump and hit the ground the im­pact was huge!

I’d wo­ken up in a cold sweat a few nights be­fore the event, think­ing about the chas­sis. The front part stuck out straight ahead of the wheels by about 3 inches and I was afraid it would dig into the road and flip me end-over-end. I had the front al­tered, so it swept up at 45 de­grees or so. The boys said I was wor­ry­ing too much, but the grind­ing sounds you can hear in the on-board footage is the front of the chas­sis hit­ting the road ev­ery time we land af­ter the big jumps. I’m glad I made the last minute changes!

The car per­formed bril­liantly and was great fun to drive, but if we were to do it again we’d tweak the de­sign. The rea­son it nose-dived like it did is be­cause I was sit­ting too far for­ward, so we’d push the driver back a bit to stop the rear wheels kick­ing up as the car leaves the ramp. That’s just a bunch of en­gi­neers nit­pick­ing, though. I’m re­ally proud of what we did. The way the car looked, the way the team func­tioned and the re­ac­tion it got from ev­ery­one was per­fect. I’d do it again in a shot.’

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