‘Eddie the Eagle’ will be in Barrow town centre for Cumbria’s wackiest racing spectacular this summer – and an open invitation’s being made for inventors of crazy free-wheeling vehicles from across the North West to enter.
Organised by Barrow’s Business Improvement District team, ‘The Super Soapbox Challenge’ will take place on Saturday, June 29 and will see competitors speed down a ramp on Dalton Road near the top of Portland Walk, down to the finish line at Abbey Road.
Michael ‘Eddie’ Edwards, better known as ‘Eddie the Eagle’ – who competed in the ski-jump at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary for Team GB has been confirmed as the event’s celebrity racer and will be first down the ramp – not on skis, but in a soapbox vehicle.
Eddie says, “Everybody who followed my adventures at the Olympics back in ’88 will be well-aware that I love speeding down slopes, especially against the odds. This will be my first time whizzing down a ramp in a soapbox vehicle and I’m sure that I’ll have stiff competition from those who will want to beat my time, so it will be really fun to see all the teams vying for the title of fastest soapbox! It’s going to be a brilliant day and I for one can’t wait to come to Barrow to see the action unfold before my eyes!”
Eddie will also be taking part in some meet & greet sessions, as well as speaking at a special event in the Forum. Further details of those events will be released in the coming weeks.
After each vehicle is launched down the ramp, it will have to reach the finish-line using propulsion-only. That means no motors, no pedals and no stored potential energy, with gravity, aerodynamics – and brakes being each competitor’s best friend. Organisers hope the event will attract entries from right across the area already known for its engineering excellence thanks to schools, colleges and major employers like BAE Systems, with thousands of people expected to line the streets to witness the excitement first-hand.
Barrow’s BID team has signed-up The Super Soapbox Challenge Company Limited to get the wheels in motion. Super Soapbox Marketing Manager Andrew Pearson says, “A similar event was launched in part of York three years ago, which resulted in more than 16,000 people turning out to watch it. Just three years later, that audience increased to just under 25,000 people. The local economy was boosted by more than £1.2 million at the 2017 event and £50,000 was raised for charity.
“In Barrow, we want to make it the highlight of the town’s summer calendar for at least the next three years. We’ve got space for 50 teams to enter in total, with each team taking part in two races before competitors are whittled down ahead of the grand-final.
“Not only will this event be great publicity for the town, it will bring fantastic financial benefits to local businesses, wide exposure for charities which get involved and of course promises to be a great day out for the whole family, thanks to full commentary, big screens, a fun fair, music, food & drink. Plus, it’s completely free to attend.”
While corporate entry is £400, individuals, emergency services, BID levy payers, armed forces and charities can all enter for the special fee of just £200. Barrow’s BID Manager, Colin Garnett says, “We recognise that, where £400 for a company to enter the soapbox race is not expensive for some, due to acquiring funding we were able to reduce the cost to £200 for groups of five individuals, any company paying the BID levy, emergency services, armed forces or charities with the aim of attracting more of these groups. Charities can also team up with companies and submit an application in the knowledge that their partner company will be able to assist with the build of the soapbox.”
Sean Maguire, Managing Director of Legend Club Management Systems took part in last year’s event in York. He says, “As a local employer it’s so important to be involved in the community. What a day it’s been! It’s incredible. I can’t get over the crowd. That’s exactly what we were hoping for – to raise money, to do something that’s meaningful but most of all, just to get a sense of being part of the city.”
The teams of five will compete not only for the fastest times but a number of other prizes including ‘most innovative cart design’, ‘best turned-out soapbox crew’ and ‘joker of the day’.