Racers line up at the top of the hill on Stone Avenue at last year’s Soap Box Derby.

Annual Soap Box Derby changes course this year with new schedule, open class

Coordinator Terry Hale hopes that some changes to the event can reinvigorate it.

Lake Cowichan’s trademark soap box derby is coming back to Lake Days for its sixth year in a row, this time with a few changes.

The green light will go off on June 7, with the races taking place from 2 to 6 p.m. Though the derby typically takes place over two days during Lake Days, coordinator Terry Hale said that the entire event will be held on June 7 this year.

“We changed the schedule and condensed it down so more family members could come out and enjoy the fun,” Hale said. “The second night went pretty late in previous years, so the younger kids couldn’t stay for the whole event.”

Another change at this year’s derby will be the addition of an “open class,” which will allow participants to roar down the track in anything, so long as it fits onto the ramp.

“The new [open] class will open the derby up to more people, and hopefully make it more entertaining for the audience,” Hale said.

The races will be split into three different age categories, Category 1 (ages six to nine), Category 2 (ages 10 to 13) and Category 3, which will be open to racers of all ages.

Hale said that the changes were inspired by the need for a bigger audience turnout.

The derby’s first year saw 30 racers register for the event, with even more racing in the second derby. Interest in the event has waxed and waned since, and Hale is hoping that the new changes will reinvigorate the derby. The turnout varies between 22 and 38 each year, but with the new changes, this year’s derby has the opportunity of being the biggest one yet.

“I just wanted to change things up a bit,” Hale said. “Sometimes when you make changes, more people notice.

“It varies each year, there have been other events like baseball happening on the same day, that didn’t include Lake Days events, that took away from the soap box derby.”

Hale noted that the Sunday event has typically drawn a bigger crowd.

One thing that is staying the same this year will be the race course. The soap box karts will line up at the top of the hill on Stone Avenue, and continue 400 metres to the bottom of the hill at Hammond Road and Sahtlam Avenue.

Another aspect of the derby that Hale hopes is here to stay is the level of excitement as the racers reach the finish line.

“The best part of the derby is the excitement and the families gathering around the participants coming down the finish line,” Hale said. “The faces of the children as their eyes light up when they see the crowd gathered.

“The competition kicks in with the older kids, and there’s a lot of excitement when they come down the hill and win by a nose.”

Registration for Lake Cowichan’s soap box derby is open until June 1, and can be done completely online at www.cowichanlakedays.com/2014/03/soap-box-derby.

Registration for those who already have a soap box kart is $20, while those who don’t will be required to purchase a $75 soap box kit which includes all the basic parts: tires, steering components and a frame, which the cardboard face can be built onto.