The Hindu (Mumbai)

Cart attack!

Can you imagine a nonmotoris­ed vehicle inspired by superheroe­s? Or a car modelled on biryani? Here’s how fivemember carts battled at the Red Bull Soapbox Race in Hyderabad

- Srinivasa Ramanujam The writer was in Hyderabad at the invitation of Red Bull

A car crash isn’t fun.

But it could be, if your car is built like a soapbox and if you are at Hyderabad’s Ramanaidu Studios for the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2024.

It was smooth sailing for some, but for others, it was a drive full of ups and downs as 28 fivemember teams from across the country assembled their cars and manoeuvred their way on the track.

Soapbox racing, for the uninitiate­d, revolves around teams battling it out in nonmotoris­ed vehicles that they have designed themselves. The objective is to plummet down a hill using gravity and avoid any obstacles en route.

Born in 2000 in Belgium, the race has been organised in more than 50 countries, with over four million spectators watching the thrilling action, creatively designed cars and, sometimes, memorable crashes too.

To the finish line

The race saw a lot of creative machines in Hyderabad. From 3,300 registrati­ons across 23 states of India, the final 28 carts drove down the slope. Like team Kith and Kin 2.0, which had come from Mumbai and stood second, not very far behind the title winner Kraken Wagen from Hyderabad. Introducin­g Kith and Kin was Kirsten Gonsalves, a selfconfes­sed oldschool team that consisted of his family members.

“My dad, my sister, my cousin and my brotherinl­aw are here,” he beams, pointing towards them. Kith and Kin based their snazzylook­ing green vehicle on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles concept because “we are all ‘90s kids, and we don’t like these newage cartoons”.

Kirsten was Shredder, and his sister, Aquilia, was Donatello. “All the costumes were made with Amazon and Myntra boxes, so we have been as sustainabl­e as we can. Every part of our cart moves.”

Like them, the Buttmobile — a team dressed as Justice League superheroe­s — also took the sustainabi­lity route. “Our cart is full of crap, literally. They are completely repurposed to fit the cart,” shows off Komal Mekala, strutting around as Superwoman.

Other whacky teams included Team Dholamite, which modelled their cart based on the musical instrument dhol, and a biryanibas­ed cart, because, well, the team members hailed from Hyderabad.

Judging these carts were some eminent sportspers­ons, including chess champion Tania Sachdev, hockey player Manpreet Singh and racer Harith Noah.

The best moves

Tania, known for her brilliant moves on the chess board, describes the event as “crazy”, but delves deep into the design of the machines, based on which she ranked them. “I looked for creativity. Not just in the making of the machine, but also in the little performanc­es that the teams put up before they hit the track.”

Tania hopes to come back for another season, but as a participan­t. “I will design my car as a knightshap­ed car and it will gallop to the finish line,” she smiles.

Harith did exactly that, when he testrode a bike on the track before the start of the race. The first Indian racer to win the Rally 2 class at the prestigiou­s Dakar Rally, Harith feels that such fun events will showcase the concept of racing to wider audiences. “Mostly, when I go to races, it’s all serious faces and everyone’s trying to focus and win. But this was about creativity and entertainm­ent and not just about speeding your way downhill,” says Harith.

Manpreet Singh, who looked out for teamwork among the participan­ts, singles out a team called Ourange Juice Gang for their energy and zing. Manpreet sums it up saying, “Like in hockey, team unity was important here too.”

 ?? JOHAN SATHYADAS ?? (Top-left) A car races down the track at the Soapbox Race 2024; (above) Team Kith and Kin 2.0.
JOHAN SATHYADAS (Top-left) A car races down the track at the Soapbox Race 2024; (above) Team Kith and Kin 2.0.
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