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  • Morgan Karpiel

Gravity Powered Vehicles: A History of Fun, Family & Great Design


Credit: Red Bull Soap Box Races 2019

The first gravity racer ever recorded took to the road in 1904 near Frankfurt, Germany. The event was a competition for hand made vehicles (usually constructed from wooden crates) in which local teenagers and their families would design, build and race their own gravity-powered vehicles down hilly roads. Inspired by European motorsports and major races, the competition was a fun way for the community to participate and celebrate the excitement of international racing events in their own towns.


In the US, similar local races were captured in photos taken by a newspaper photographer named Myron Scott, who later organized the All American Soap Box Derby in 1933, and convinced Chevrolet to sponsor it. The car company built a track in Akron, Ohio, which attracted over 40,000 soapbox racing spectators in subsequent years.


The sport of soapbox racing has experienced an international resurgence in popularity, thanks to events like the Red Bull Soap Box Challenge. The events are now heavily promoted and attract millions of viewers on YouTube and Facebook. The Red Bull races include costumes and fun vehicle designs that are a joy to watch, even if they do not translate into practical products for the rental market.


We specifically designed our Gravity Coasters to race, slalom, or ride down gentle slopes, and perform in special events and promotional activities. This is the essence of competitive entertainment; an attraction that is exciting to watch and exhilarating to participate in, with a skill level that accommodates beginners as well as seasoned riders.


Many towns in the UK have now started their own gravity racing events: Catterline Cartie Challenge in Scotland, the Belchford Downhill Challenge in Lincolnshire, the annual Soap Box Derby in Shropshire, Cairngorm Soapbox Extreme, and the Worlaby Downhill Challenge.


As the sport continues to become more popular, it is presenting ski area towns with incredible new opportunities to promote their resorts and add unique items to their rental fleets. Resort towns already have the slopes, the lift equipment, and the terrain to satisfy the growing market of soapbox enthusiasts. And while it may never be feasible to incorporate the outlandish gravity vehicle designs created by Red Bull racers into rental fleets, our lightweight aluminum gravity racers (17kgs) are perfectly suited to the task.


Watching events like the Red Bull Soap Box Challenge is a truly enjoyable experience, and one that has been tailored to the market audience that Red Bull hopes to attract (teenagers and young adults ages 13-21 and working professionals ages 21-35). As a rental fleet operator or ski resort manager, is that a market segment that interests you? If so, how many weather independent attractions are you offering to reach the Red Bull market, or add value to their experience when they visit?


As business owners and operators in the sports travel and leisure market, it’s important to draw from proven ideas to update and improve visitor experience and extend brand awareness. If you would like to consult with us on how we can help, we invite you to contact us today.


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