Rain, soapboxes and time trials

By Sam Spiller

The weather that Sunday had decided to put on a performance typical to that of the City of Saints. Rain, then shine, then rain again bore down on the Settlers Monument, the only consolation being that the majority of the day’s activities would be taking place indoors.

Albeit for one. Nestled in the front alcove, a group of gentlemen stood together amidst a pile of wood, and metal rods that were lined up and centred by a number of small wheels. This was the beginning of the Scifest Soapbox Derby.

Photo 1

As the morning progressed, these men set about the work of building go-karts with their various tools, cutting and hammering away. Eventually, they were joined by others, as well as a collection of young boys, resistant to the consistent drizzle and eager as beavers to partake in the construction.

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An hour or so later, four vehicle-type structures began to rise out of the huddled groups, simplicity and functionality being the keywords of their construction. All similar in their designs, yet the slight distinctions in their decorations and overall completion were enough to tell them apart. The teams of children who would eventually pilot them were also now recognizable, thanks to the colour-coordinated hardhats that now adorned their heads.

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Vura was the first one to get a test run, piloted by the blue team. It didn’t go well, with a wheel flying off on the first attempt. Back to the pits, the quick mend coincided with the test run of Uisteer, the sleek cruiser of the yellow team. Uisteer would stand out for not having a back on the seat, unlike the others who did. Test run complete, the two were put out on display while the rest of the contenders were attended to.

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GTI and BMX took their time in getting ready, with GTI suffering a wheel loss, but this time in the pit and while stationery. This did not down the attitudes of the orange team, nor the red team or any of the helpers and organizers, who were all sporting attitudes of equal excitement. Soon, with the minor touches of spray added, the two go-karts were finished. And after a quick practise run, all of them were pulled to the starting line.

That is, all except BMX, who had decided to go on a bit of a joyride and would have to be called back by the supervisor.

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The race was set to begin, or so it was. The idea of enacting a doubles tournament had to be scrapped after Vura and Uisteer had suffered a side-by-side collision. Instead, this would be a time trial. Fastest down the hill in their best run would be crowned winner.

As so the racing commenced. The drizzle continued, but that did not stop a crowd from being drawn in. One after the other, the go-karts were given the almighty push, drivers having to handle an almighty corner down Fort Selwyn Drive, and a cruise down to the finish line where a marshal kept a watchful eye and a precise stopwatch.

Like the samoosas on sale at the Monument, the trials were never without a bit of spice. Steering was lost resulting in crashes, a lack of oomph from the push-off added frustrating seconds to the runtime, and even Uisteer had to deal with a split chassis, earning them a trip to the pits.

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But after a half hour of racing, the results were in. Winners were announced with the support of car horns, with bags of goodies being handed out as prizes. Though impressive were all the times clocked by the racers, one had stood out from the rest,

the red team, with their trusty GTI and an impressive time of 25 seconds, had won the Soapbox Derby.

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