The Redbull Soapbox Race is a highlight of the London summer scene. It’s fun, wacky, competitive but at the same time not too serious.  It’s a great day out, and not to be missed.

The London Life section of this blog has been a bit quite of late, and for that I apologise.  Saving for a house/flat kind of kills your social life a bit … or at least reduces the amount you can get out and explore this great city I call home.   There are some days I get out though :)

Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of the drink itself (whereas my sister lives off the stuff), I am a massive fan of what Redbull do with regards to sports.  The Air Race, Cliff Diving and most recently the Crashed Ice series are all a seriously exciting watch … on TV.

That’s the difference though isn’t it, experiencing sport in person is always much more exciting. Being a part of the event and making up a part of the crowd that gathers to cheer on their favoured individual or team and watching them compete, whilst also involved in your own form of competition with and rivals spectators.

Rivals is maybe too strong a’ world, but hopefully you know what I mean in terms of different sets of fans all supporting and cheering for their favoured individual athlete or team, and drumming up a superior atmosphere to that of you living room sofa.  Sorry but it’s true, live sports is far superior to watching it on the box.




The Redbull Soap Box Race @ Alexandra Palace

So to the Redbull Soap Box Race … live!

Having watched the previous years race on the TV from home and thoroughly enjoying, this year I took it once step further and invested in tickets to attend the race in person and take my enjoyment of the event to the next level.

I wasn’t alone mind, in tow I had the parents and girlfriend, and we set off early doors from our respective homes in West London in order to make it to Alexandra palace in time for the opening of the gates, circa 10.30am.  Who cares if the forecast was indicating a 70% chance of rain, like thousands of others we arrived at Wood Green underground station in North London, and make the so called 10 minute journey up the hill to Alexandra palace.

In reality it was more like a half hour walk and all uphill.  Long!

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There was a bit of a queue to get in the race site, but in all fairness it didn’t take long at all to get to the front and we were soon inside the gates and ready to explore the race site, which surprisingly had quite a lot to offer in addition to the race itself.

Pre Race Pits

Whilst others queued up for a late morning burger and beer (too early for me), or made their way to find the ‘best’ spot to stand along the race course, our party of four made a dash for the still quiet pit lanes.

First up we spotted this race nice looking automobile which apparently goes rather fast!

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… and then we found this collection of 4 wheeled specimens, which didn’t go quite as fast, but which looked utterly fantastic and provided many an entertaining photographic opportunity.  These were of course the soapboxes to take part in the race, and their incredibly talented designers/builders/engineers. Well played boys and girls!

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What is a soapbox though?  They all look great right, but what defines these amazingly creative and beautiful vehicles as a soapbox?

Here’s the official line from the Redbull website

Each hand-made machine is fuelled by nothing but sheer courage, the force of gravity and perhaps a little Red Bull

The key word there is ‘gravity’.  Look up the word Soapbox on Google and you might well find it accompanied by the term ‘gravity racer’.  A soapbox is essentially a non motorised race vehicle, and with this Redbull race specifically, the different teams had to build their racers to within certain dimensions.

You’d think at this point I would tell you said dimensions, but in truth I don’t actually know them and can’t see them as being more important than the Frozen outfit the fella in the photo above is wearing.  Magical right!?

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All in all 64 different soapboxes were to take part in the race, and as per above they were all brilliantly themed and accompanied by some great costumes and acting skills.  Some teams really got into character which really added to the occasion, and certainly kept the kids in the crowd happy.

The different soapboxes really were works of art, it was almost difficult to walk around the pits and admire them, knowing that in less than an hour, any number of them might had become a smouldering wreck at the hands of the race course and any one of its five obstacles.

Food and Drinks

Having left the pits behind it was of course time to stock up on a bit of food and drink before searching out a good spot to catch the race action.  There was the option to BYO food and drink (except no canned drinks other than Redbull were allowed inside the gate) to The Redbull Soapbox Race, or you could treat yourself and indulge in any number of pop up food stands and bar.

We did a mix of the two, bringing a couple of sandwiches, but also tucking into a burrito and beer bought from the stalls on site,  Tasty!

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The Race

By the time we had bought food, consumer it, and then found a spot alongside the track to set out our picnic blanket, it was pretty much time for the race to start.

The crowds lining the track were now 5 or 6 people deep, so views were at a premium, but the organisers were good/smart enough to erect a number of large screens on site so that we wouldn’t miss any of the action, and the action came thick and fast!  No sooner had the first soapbox made it’s attempt at navigating the 420 metre long course, than we had our first spectacular crash of the day with the Tuteneska team crashing over the Bone Rattler and skidding into one of the hay-bale barriers which lines the track.  The Bone Rattler had claimed it’s first victim for the day.

redbull soap box race course at Alexandra Palace

So I guess a ‘race’ would actually be incorrect in terms of how the soapboxes made their way down the track.  It was more like time trials, but while also navigate obstacles.  Whilst a race would have been great to see in terms of witnessing overtaking etc, I think the time trial format gave all of us in attendance a much better viewing of each of the different soapboxes.  I also think it would have been a little gutting for any of the teams and drivers had they crashed out of a race at the hands of another team.  At least in the time trial format their fate was in their own hands once they had exited the starting gate below and commenced their 420 metre decent to the finish line.

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The best crashes 

So that crash by the Tuteneska team I was talking about earlier, yeah you can catch here at 0.54.  The most I watch it the more brutal it looks!

The winning soap box 

Want to know which team won The Redbull Soapbox Race and how?  Simply press play.

Judged not just on speed down the course, but creativity and showmanship by a panel of 4 judges, this effort from the Breakfast Club is really worth watching due to the creativity that went into the design of their soapbox.  On the day it was entirely unique and stood out a mile.

2016?

There has been no official word on a 2016 race in London next year, but on the basis of a massive 20,000 people attending this year I would presume the event would be repeated.

****UPDATE – FROM OFFICIAL REDBULL WEBSITE*****

Red Bull Soapbox London is taking a break in 2016, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of wacky races happening all over the globe.

To tide you over until Soapbox returns to London in 2017, we’ve gathered the craziest outfits, vehicles and entrants from the past year. Enjoy!

Cost

Adult tickets for the event were £9.00 per person. Considering the event was almost 6 hours long, it represented pretty good value.

The cost of food and drink was of course fairly expensive.  A burrito was £8 and a pint of beer £5.

Where

The 2015 race took place at Alexandra Palace in north London.  See the map below for a more specific idea of the race location.

The Redbull Soapbox Race  – A good family day out

All in all The Redbull Soapbox Race was a really enjoyable day out in London town.  Something fun and a little bit different.  The atmosphere at the event was a fun and lively one, and the ‘race’ itself was great watch.

Would I go again?  Yes I would … but I would highly recommend that if a 2016 event were to take place, Redbull and their security team review their site exit strategy.  Making people, some of whom were on crutches or in a wheelchair, to travel all the way back to the top of the hill in order to exit the race site seems ridiculous.  There were lots of p*ssed off punters towards the end of the day who simply wanted to get the train home via the bottom of the hill and finish line, but who were made to walk back up to the starting gate and all the way around Alexandra Palace.  Truth be told it was starting to turn a bit ugly as we made our exit, with people barging past security and trying to climb the locked gates, and it was hard to argue with the punters who just wanted to go home via the quickest route.  Presumably the event organisers had a reason for not allowing people to exit via the bottom of the hill, but I’m struggling to think of what it might have been.

Fingers crossed for an improvement in that area of what was a very exciting and enjoyable event, come the 2016 edition.

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redbull soapbox race Alexandra Palace