Soapboxing clever

The Lotus Type 119c soapbox has claimed its second consecutive title and record in the Brooklands Soapbox Derby at Brooklands in Surrey, making Lotus the most successful soapbox racing team ever in UK downhill gravity racing competition.

Driven by Paul Adams, the engineless Type 119c closed-cockpit streamliner dominated the practice run and finished 1.8 seconds ahead of last year’s winner, Lola Cars.

Other competitors included Vauxhall and Ford, as well as entries from schools, colleges and private individuals.

Adams‘ fastest time of 72.4 seconds was just 0.6 seconds shy of last year’s record, and he broke the 2005 record in the first of six competitive runs by producing a time of 68.5 seconds.

Adams went on to smash the record further in the second official timed run, setting a new course record of 67.7 seconds, 4.1 seconds quicker than last year’s top time.

On the final 0.7-mile run, the time posted was within just 0.10 seconds of the new record.

The soapbox consists of carbon fibre, with honeycomb in areas requiring additional robustness. The uprights and running gear are made of titanium. All this means it weighs in at around just 40kg before tungsten ballast is added. The vehicle is designed to combine low mass with high strength, which allowed it to previously achieve speeds of up to 65mph at the track at Goodwood, drawn only by gravity.

According to Lotus testing and development engineer Billy Carroll, the vehicle initially began its life as an after-work voluntary project involving four Lotus engineers. The soapbox has been engineered to minimise rolling resistance and put the vehicle’s mass in a position that maximises driver dynamics. It was designed to make full use of aerodynamic efficiency, so the developers’ objective was therefore to position the driver as far forward as possible before building the rest of the vehicle around him. To improve handling, it also contains a high ratio steering wheel that is very responsive to driver input.

Following its victory, the vehicle will continue to be used for marketing activities as a demonstration of Group Lotus’ engineering expertise.