Africa’s richest square mile came alive on a sunny Sunday Spring day as one of its CBD’s inclines, Sandton Drive, hosted the Red Bull Box Cart Race.
Unfolding on a 500 meter twisting course designed by former Dakar Rally winner, Giniel de Villiers [who also happened to be one of the judges on race day], some 25 000 spectators got to witness thrills and spills galore as eclectic cart racing teams tackled the course with colourful gusto!
The event, which was making a welcome return, having last been held in Soweto eight years back – was won by the foursome of Marius Lategan, as well as John, Gareth and Stuart Turner, named SA Bobsled.
Having negotiated a sharp turn to the right at an e-Toll [cheekily rewritten as a Free-Toll] gantry, gravel dirt, a bumpy pothole obstacle, a chicane with flanking bales of hale and a sharp ramp near the finish line – the Benoni-based team romped home to lift the 2018 winner’s trophy! Their triumph came after they had earlier wowed the estival crowd with a catchy booty-shaking dance routine they performed at the starting podium.
With the Highveld sun obliging the fun-seeking weekend horde, the funny event packed a dime-a-dozen quotient of drama and spectacular crashes. Young and old were out in kaleidoscopic force as, together with a humour-tinged commentator, they urged 70 teams with curious names such as, Piece of Ship, Chicken Coop-ay and Bathtime, on!
The entertainment assumed overdrive as the sarcasm throwing commentator was heard to describe one entry as a “Stirling Moss kinda car” and indeed one of the builds in the makeshift paddock area evoked another F1-steeped name – that of Juan Manuel Fangio.
That was in the form of the Mach 1, an entry from mechanical engineering students’ team named McLemon. If the race had a category judged on presentation, the Wits’ lads would had scooped the prize, hands-down! Their area was reminiscent of an actual real-life pit area – down to the Armstrong-esque jerk and wheel grooves gun. The McLemon team even had multiple sponsors such as Bremskraft, Spitzen and FNB, and their motor build cost some R15 000 – money they raised in a jiffy, after having sent out proposals riding on the fact of the course they were studying for.
Waiting for their turn to start, and clad in overalls emblazoned with their sponsors’ names, they even did a timed trial run of a pit-stop routine.
Whilst select guests sipped on Red Bull Summer Edition Twist cocktails at the Friends of Red Bull hospitality area, a rather heavy-resumed roster of judges numbering the like of Proteas bowling ace, Kagiso ‘KG‘ Rabada and biker, Alfie Cox – had their eyes fixed onto monitors as they determined scores based on teams’ presentations on the starting pad.
Points gained from impressive presentations meant a lot in determining teams ultimate placing and in this regard, one of those who got the judges nod was one whose cart was shaped like a helicopter and as part of their presentation, also had an actual chopper hovering overhead and monitoring its progress as it winded its path down the embankment. Judges would periodically raise scoreboards showing numbers they believed teams deserved, based on that aspect.
But the real decider boiled down to which team negotiated the course the fastest with entrants invariably having one or more persons riding a cart. Poorly built carts gave way to the lacking workmanship as they accounted for those who didn’t get to make it to the finishing line.
Revved up by comedian, Mpho Popps at the beginning, teams got to experience a “Red Bull Gives you Wings” moment as a ramp situated a few meters from the chequered flag sent their carts airborne – with the sensation accentuated by the effect of a timed gust of blowing of sorts, precisely at the point the front wheels drove onto it. It was at this ramp that spectators witnessed a rather serious crash which left a driver sprawled to the ground for some considerable while – causing a momentary halt to proceedings. Although there was a paramedic’s station just further up the steep, none had arrived by the time the contestant picked himself up, and walked down to the finish line.
The razzmatazz was in full flow by midday as throngs’ flooded watering holes dispensing copious amounts of the event’s sponsor’s beverage. The snaking chicane flanked with bales of hay on either side, proved to be some obstacle to contend with for the wider-built carts, as a substantial number found themselves entangled, and having to be freed up by marshals posted throughout the course way. Despite the crashes and non-finishes, some teams registered very impressive times as they crossed the finish line under a minute, with high-placing times around 54 seconds.
At the conclusion, team Bathtime secured second place, with Ballberions Dragon occupying the third position on the podium.
Evidently impressed by the crazy, but entertaining antics he had beheld, Rabada remarked that he had never seen Sandton Drive like it had momentarily been turned into, adding in summation, “It was a really fun experience judging today – there was such great vibe here today!”
For more information, visit: www.redbullboxcartrace.com