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The sound and the fury...local girl, Fernandez, takes title

La Cañada Kiwanis Club in association with the California Family Soap Box Derby Association held the Ninth Annual Greater Los Angeles Soap Box Derby on Michigan Hill.

June 19, 2008|By Nicholas Louie

The first race of the Ninth Annual Greater Los Angeles Soap Box Derby didn’t begin until 10 a.m., but volunteers had been setting up long before then, the bulk of setup occurring since 7 that morning. Different local groups volunteered a hand to pull the derby together. The Flintridge Prep Key Club arrived early to sell morning pastries and coffee. Boy Scout Troop 502 kept lanes clear by towing cars in after they crossed the finish line. And the St. Francis High School football team loaded and unloaded cars onto a trailer that ferried cars up and down the hill.

Races were conducted in accordance to All-American Soap Box Derby (AASBD) rules in a double-elimination tournament format involving a main bracket and consolation bracket. For the first heat, names were drawn and paired together at random and following matchups depended on bracket results. Each matchup heat consisted of two races down the hill, called phases. After the first phase, cars switch lanes and swap tires. The wheel swap is to ensure fairness since wheels and wheel bearings can significantly influence the outcome of a race. As the first car crosses the finish line, it trips an electronic timer, and the second car turns the timer off. At the conclusion of the heat, the timer differentials for the two phases are summed up and whoever has the largest time differential is the winner.

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“In soap box derby, a win or loss hangs on one-thousandth of a second,” said Pete Gallagher, a race official controlling the release of cars from the start line.

Brittany Strahan, who placed second in the Super Stock Division and has competed in soap box derby for five years, gave further explanation. Because a race is determined by fractions of a second every factor that could contribute to the speed must be considered. First, for instance, the car needs to be the maximum total weight; a little lighter would mean going slower than the opponent. Second, a driver needs to familiarize themselves with the race strip, noting small dips in the road that could increase speed as well as obstacles to avoid like manhole locations and even painted lines. Third there are details in construction to consider such the flatness of the axel and the placement of weight within the car.

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