To support Soap Box Derby racing in the Silicon Valley - a family oriented event in which children and their parents participate in the greatest amateur racing program in the world. The Soap Box Derby teaches youngsters teamwork, perseverance, the spirit of competition and basic construction skills. Our program includes opportunities for all children including "super kids" - which pairs handicapped and non-handicapped kids in a competitive racing event. Soap Box Derby racing levels the playing field so all participants have a chance of winning the Big Prize at the end of the day regardless of their physical or mental capabilities.
THIS IS WHO WE ARE, THIS IS WHAT WE STAND FOR
After some of the kids from Palo Alto and Campbell raced in Vallejo in 2006, enough kids were ready to race Silicon Valley that we were able to form our own race. After reviewing many potential race sites, we decided on Dana St in Mountain View. Thanks to the financial, logistical, and manpower support of Air Systems Inc of San Jose and the support of the Palo Alto Elks, the kids were able to race closer to home. It also allowed us to bring Super kids racing back to California. Unfortunately, racing on Dana Street became too expensive and we moved the races to Hanover Street in Palo Alto.
Our Super Kids program allows kids with some disability that prevents them from racing their own cars to team up with an experienced driver and race custom built 2-seater cars together as a team. The teams race during our local race as well as rallies and compete to represent California at the National super Kids classic held in the middle of the world championship week.
Personally, I am not sure what disability individual children have - it doesn't matter to me (although I do distinctly remember a very special blind racer). We treat the Super Kids as a fourth division. All I need to know is that they can't race by themselves for some physical reason. Many of our drivers say they enjoy teaming up with the Super Kids more than racing their own cars.
At each local, we start the day with the mayor's cup where we invite the local mayors to race off against each other. We also use this opportunity to have them test the Super Kids cars and make sure they are safe. The winning mayor gets the coveted Mayor's cup and the honor of defending it the following year.
The first All-American race was held in Dayton in 1934. The following year, the race was moved to Akron because of its central location and hilly terrain. In 1936, Akron civic leaders recognized the need for a permanent track site for the youth racing classic and, through the efforts of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Derby Downs became a reality.
There will be three racing divisions in our local, rallies, and at the All-American competition. The Stock division is designed to give the first-time builder a learning experience. Boys and girls, 8 through 13 compete in simplified cars built from kits purchased from the All-American. These kits assist the Derby novice by providing a step-by-step layout for construction of a basic lean forward style car. The Super Stock Car division, ages 10 through 17, gives the competitor an opportunity to expand their knowledge and build a more advanced model. Both of these beginner levels make use of kits and shells available from the All-American. These entry levels of racing are popular in race communities across the country, as youngsters are exposed to the Derby program for the first time. The Masters division offers boys and girls, 10 through 17, an advanced class of racer to try their creativity and design skills in. Masters entrants may purchase a Scottie Masters Kit with a fiberglass body from the All-American Soap Box Derby.
The goals of the Soap Box Derby program have not changed since it began in 1934. They are to teach youngsters some of the basic skills of workmanship, the spirit of competition and the perseverance to continue a project once it has begun.
Local vs Rally:
Each spring, kids from all over the world compete in the race closest to their home for a winner-takes-all chance at representing their area at the world championship. At the end of that race weekend, there is one winner crowned in each division as the “local champ”. Here in Northern California, we have two such locals: Silicon Valley (held in Mountain View or Palo Alto) and Tuolumne (by Sonora). Around the world, these are held in New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and Guam (just to name a few that I have met). In 1993, the rally completion was officially recognized to give kids a chance to race throughout the year and earn a trip to Akron even if they did not win their local. The race area was split in to 11 regions and the top point earners in each region earned a spot in the rally world championships each year. The number of winners in each region invited to the world championships increased with the number of races and racers in each region encouraging more races throughout the race year. California is in region 2 which includes California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and Utah. This year, we will send up to 6 drivers from each division to the world championships after racing a total of 36 rally race in the region this race year.
In the local and rally races, we race a “double elimination timer differential with 4 wheel swap”. In double elimination, kids that lose their first hear continue to race in the consolation bracket until they lose a second time before being done. At the bottom of the hill (typically about 900’ from the starting ramps), a timer measures the time between when the first car crosses and the second car crosses. These are measures to within .001 seconds. In case one lane is faster than the other or one driver’s wheels are better than the others, the kids immediately go back to the top of the hill, change wheels and change lanes which each other, and race again. Again, the time difference is measured and the overall winner between the two times is winner of that heat and advances.
The World Championship race:
Due to the sheer number of kids racing (over 500 this year I believe), there is not enough time to do double elimination wheel swap at the world championship. Instead, we have 3 lanes of racing single elimination. That means each race,2/3rds of the kids are eliminated. Assuming the cars are all tuned well, it all comes down to luck of the lanes and luck of the wheels. Although they take every measure possible to match good sets of wheel and make the lanes equal, the wheels and lanes are probably the biggest factors.
Since the cars have no propulsion, weight is a key factor. The kids add weights to their cars to bring each car, driver, and weight up to the maximum for their weight class (200,240, or 255 pounds). Since all the stock and super stock cars are identical part-wise other than the weights, this can be critical in building a winning race car. Throughout the race year, you will see kids (and their pit crew dads and moms) changing and adjusting weight trying to find that magic combination for that driver that gives them the right weight distribution, height, center of gravity, and rigidity to create a winning combination.
The other factor in having a winning car is alignment. If the wheels are pointed in towards each other (toe-in) or the car is bending the axles down (camber), the friction on the wheel bearings and road will be greater and slow them down. Similarly, if the axles are not true to the car or the steering is not straight, the car will be hard to steer affecting the performance. Using tools to measure these within 0.001 inches, the kids make sure everything is aligned and tuned so their car can compete.
But the biggest factor in winning by far is the driver… Alignment and weights are mainly things that race moms and dads worry about because they cannot control the biggest factor. We talk to the kids about “seat time” – time they spend racing even when they don’t win. Every race gives them critical practice controlling the car, maintaining good race position, and following the line down the hill they want (or trying a new line). What’s a “good line” – you will have to ask the drivers since they race not me.
There will be three divisions at the All-American in the Local Championship and three divisions in the Rally Championship. By the afternoon's end, six new winners emerge to wear the traditional gold jackets (local champions) and scarlet jackets (rally champions) signifying they are the world champions of the Stock, Super Stock and Masters divisions of the All-American Soap Box Derby.
In 2009, our local stock champion Alison Parman went on to take 5th place in the world in her division. In 2011, one of our super stock rally champion Veronica Harris went on to take 2nd place in the world in her division.