Pudsey soapbox rocket men aim to win

THIS YEAR is the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing, and a Pudsey-based bunch has chosen an unconventional way to commemorate the occasion.

Jonny “Buzz” Heath and his four-strong team of amateur astronauts will drive their own custom made go-kart in the forthcoming Red Bull Soapbox Race in London on Sunday.

Dubbed Apollo 50 the team has spent six months constructing their vehicle out of aluminium and polyester.

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Mr Heath said: “We made the job hard for ourselves, because the car has three detachable parts, just like the real Apollo 11. We hope it will make it to the bottom without crashing.”

Pudsey team taking on the Red Bull Soapbox Race with a topically themed vehicle. Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 48-year-old and his older brother Tim “Lovell”, 58, have been racing soapboxes ever since the first competition in the UK was organised in 2001. Back then they totalled their vehicle at the first obstacle of the race, but they have successfully completed the five they have taken part in. Now they are teaming up with friends Dave “Armstrong” Bendall, 43, and Mark “Collins” Harrison, 48, and have been practising in Roundhay Park for the big race.

Mr Heath said: “Dave is the pilot, because he is the youngest and the most handsome. Also we need someone stupid enough to not use the brakes during the downhill race.”

In soapboxing, it is forbidden to brake using hands and feet, and also no engines or external energy sources are allowed. But this peculiar sport is not just about the speed and physical performance: the teams of four are also assessed by a panel of judges based on their creativity and their 20-second-long pre-launch performances.

To be successful, Mr Heath is aiming for a a winning combination of being topical and weird at the same time.

He said: “You want to put on a show that makes you stand out. But you also have to pick a theme that everyone can relate to and that people will easily recognise.”

They are not alone in their enthusiasm for the magic of soapboxing. The sport has been steadily growing more and more popular in the UK since its introduction, and nowadays thousands of people go to see the races that are broadcast by the TV channel Dave. Mr Heath said: “It is all in the spirit of fun. Everyone looks after each other at the competitions. It is as much about camaraderie as it is about winning.”