Soapbox racing in Avon, ancient Roman style |

Soapbox racing in Avon, ancient Roman style

Matt TerrellAvon, CO
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyDave Bienvenue, left, and Bud Sargent work on the wheels for their soapbox car Wednesday in Sargent's garage in Avon, Colorado. Bienvenue will be racing the car on Oct. 25 in Denver.

AVON, Colorado Avon, Colorado resident Dave Bienvenue will don a gladiator helmet and full suit of ancient Roman-style armor next weekend for a soapbox derby in Red Rocks.Hes treating the derby more like a chariot race at the Circus Maximus. The soapbox car, being built in friend and team member Bud Sargents garage in Avon, will look like a horse-drawn chariot with red and blue horse pinatas fastened to the front. The cars body will be ornate red and gold. Bienvenue will be a Roman warrior soapbox car driver, seeking to conquer all. Hell be channeling Russell Crowe, Charleton Heston and Kirk Douglas, and has even bought a replica of the battle mask Crowe wore in the movie Gladiator.The Red Bull Soapbox Race, Oct. 25, encourages such Halloween-like strangeness at its events, which began in Belgium in 2000. This year, the chariot will be up against soapbox cars inspired by a ski resort chair lift, a big piece of cheese, the Batmobile, the parade float in Ferris Buellers Day Off, a Colorado flyin fish and former Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway.Fifty-one teams from throughout western United States were selected from nearly 150 applications. Bienvenue is captain and driver for team Back to the Future, which will be up against others such as The Caddy Shackers, Team Weiner , and the Wahooligans. Also on team Back to the Future are Steven Brown, Chris Bru Phillips, Lee Poole and Sargent. Theyre all either ski and snowboard instructors or bike mechanics and technicians.Bienvenue saw an ad for the race on the Internet and thought it would be fun.People go wacky there, Bienvenue said. It looked like it would be a blast.Its a race, sure, and speed matters. Gravity and aerodynamics will take care of much of that, but the hardest part now is building effective steering and braking systems, Sargent and Bienvenue say.But judges are also looking for creativity and showmanship. Bienvenues original plans for the car involved a lot more creativity, but were deemed dangerous. He wanted to build a real-life Transformer, based on the popular toy and movie. We wanted to make a United States Postal Service wagon that would transform into a Roman chariot, Bienvenue said.Organizers didnt approve of parts flying off the car mid-race, which would have been necessary for the transformation.If it flies apart on its own during the race, then thats a different thing, Bienvenue said.Venture Sports, Eagle-Vail Concrete, West Face Finishes and Carceneria Tepic have been sponsoring the team, Bienvenue said.

All soapbox racers must be entirely human-powered no stored power or external energy sources allowed and they must have a braking system. All vehicles must also be less than six feet wide, less than 20 feet in length and no more than seven feet from the ground. All carts must weigh no more than 176 pounds, not including the driver of course.First prize is a trip to Texas Motor Speedway for a NASCAR race, featuring time in the pit and meeting Red Bull drivers.For more information, visit Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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