EVERYONE'S A WINNER, BABY!

HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR FIRST SOAPBOX DERBY  

What a weekend that was. We'd just condensed a year's work into a matter of weeks to get our entry ready in time, and before we knew it, we were part of a queue of carts – in all manner of shapes and sizes – patiently waiting our turn to charge head-long down an inclined section of London Road in Billericay, Essex.

The fact that we'd only really given it a quick test-run down a slope near our yard didn't cross our minds – well, not long enough to have any serious second thoughts anyway.

Then, booming out of every speaker for what seemed like miles, we heard the announcer say the words "...and next up it's Team VW Down Under...!" We were up, our time had come!

We'll let Paul 'The Stig' Barnett pick up the story here to explain what it's like to thunder down the track at speeds approaching seven miles per hour.

THOUGHTS FROM  THE COCKPIT 

 THE DAY MY DREAM CAME TRUE 

By Paul 'The Stig' Barnett

Before the big day, I'd been treated to all kinds of leg-pulling and banter, mostly centred around the fact that what we'd created wasn't going to be the best at turning. But I had a plan, the track was straight – yes there was a 'chicane' to negotiate – but as long as I lined it up I knew I was in with a chance.

 

So as I sat hunched inside my fibre glass cocoon at the top of the ramp, I watched Paul and the team doing ring-a-roses to a Beach Boys Club Mix in front of me (Paul really needs to up his dancing game by the way) and I began to pick my route down the track.

The music stopped – and thankfully so did Paul's dancing – then all of a sudden I was being pushed down the ramp... I was on my way. The run down to the first jump gave me a chance to get a feel for the steering, I gave it a little wiggle and found that I was actually getting some response, not something Lewis Hamilton would be happy with, but I had feedback from the wheels. This was great news and I quickly turned my attention to the ramp that was 'fast' approaching...

Within literally minutes, I could see the huge, 18-inch ramp of death looming up in front of me, I adjusted the PAS (Paul Assisted Steering), held my breath and whoosh...! I was airborne. Time stood still for a few seconds, I could no longer hear the crowd, the rustling of the wind through the trees, or Paul screaming words of encouragement like a proud father behind me ... just the beating of my heart. It was so peaceful. The next thing I knew I was lunging forwards, I thought I was going to be thrown out of the front of the bus so I mentally prepared myself for the cold, hard tarmac that I was about to kiss, but no, this little bus of awesomeness bounced on its front wheels and then the back wheels followed – I had to make a split second steering adjustment to stop myself careering though the crowd and into one of the burger vans, but I'd made it!

The 'chicane' was up next but posed me no problems, I swerved through it as if it wasn't even there, then the track seemed to flatten out a little, and my speed subsequently decreased, but I had just enough momentum to negotiate the final jump then crawl flat out to the finish line!

I'd survived my first Soapbox Derby run. I'd suffered a couple of bruised elbows and I don't think I'll be populating the world with any more children, but I was in one piece.

LET'S GET READY TO TRUNDLE...

Paul 'The Stig' Barnett plots his route down the track...

 PHOTOGRAPH: AVPICS/ALAMY 

TO BILLERICAY AND BEYOND...

Paul 'The Stig' Barnett gets some big air!

Paul 'The Stig' Barnett

Lead Pilot - Team VW Down Under

VIDEOS

Check out the videos below of Paul 'The Stig' Barnett's epic maiden run in VW Down Under's first ever Soapbox Derby.

PHOTO GALLERY

A selection of photos from the day.

SO, DID WE WIN?

In terms of fastest down the track, no we didn't win, I believe we came a respectable fourth. However, we did win 'Best Constructed Soapbox' which from our point of view is an even bigger result because it underlines our commitment to producing the best-looking buses out there. Even if some of them are miniature ones!

WE WERE WINNERS IN ANOTHER WAY TOO

£2,245

IN SPONSORSHIP DONATIONS

We're proud to announce that as well as best constructed soapbox, we also collected the most amount of money amongst all of the competing teams, so we'd like to thank each and every one of you who sponsored us – you're the real heroes.

FANCY A LITTLE RECAP?

If you haven't already seen it (or would like a reminder) of how we created our Soapbox bus, go to our Soapbox Build page.

FUTURE PLANS

We really enjoyed the weekend and got a lot of satisfaction from building our soapbox and it's a nice feeling knowing that the charities that will benefit from it. We're now giving some serious thought about entering more events like this in the future. We'll announce any decisions we make on the website – you can also subscribe to our mailing list to be kept up-to-date and informed