Sundays are usually relaxed affairs at the beginning of the school year, with students catching up on assignments or casually meeting friends for brunch. But on Sunday the scenic campus of Taipei National University of the Arts (國立臺北藝術大學) will come alive as its main road, which slopes down 30 degrees, is invaded by zany riders who have signed on for the Red Bull Soapbox Race (皂飛車大賽).
For two months, potential contestants have been applying for Soapbox Race licenses. Of the 738 online applications and 283 submissions, 52 teams of four were selected for what has been dubbed the grand prix of non-motorized racing. The word race might be misleading, though, as speed is only one-third of the criteria to win the grand prize of a trip for four to the Macau Grand Prix in November. The other yardsticks the teams will be measured by are creativity and showmanship.
Imagination and resourcefulness are at a premium during Soapbox Races, and the first one ever in Taiwan is no exception. Team OSEOUS will be rolling down the hill in a huge bowl of beef noodles, rappers on the How We Roll (好威龍) team will be cruising down in a low rider and the singers on the Sticky Rice (糯米糰) team plan to cross the finish line with the driver dressed as a crab in the middle of a hot pot full of vegetables. Other soapboxes will be shaped like bananas, suitcases, pianos and Nintendo controllers.
While the goal is to finish the course as quickly as possible, teams increase their scores if they are more adventurous. Drivers can just go straight down the course if they choose, but for extra points, halfway down is the bog turn, which drivers can ride up and gain speed. Right before the finish line, two jumps await and scores are boosted for those getting massive air and surviving the landing. After the insanity of the Red Bull Soapbox Race, chilled out Sundays at Taipei National University of the Arts may never be the same again.