Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hay now, Hay now, now.

I've just written a feature for the Red Bulletin on the Red Bull Boxcart race, held this year in Soweto. Here's the sidebar from the 6-page feature that'll appear in the November issue...

"For insight into what it’s like to pilot a boxcart down the Diepkloof hill, our Red Bulletin writer donned a helmet, hopped into Red Bull’s own boxcart, and started rolling…

As it often does, received advice offered conflicting opinions. “Don’t bother braking for the chicane,” said a colleague who’d helped set up the course. “You don’t build up all that much speed and, with go-kart tyres on our boxcart, you’ll have enough grip to get through the corners.”

“No, I’m definitely going to brake,” said Charlie Repsold of the ultra-quick Try-Hard R team. “If your cart is quick, you’ll build up way more speed than you can handle in the , even if you have thin bicycling tyres like ours, which are best for this kind of job.

So… brake-and-use-go-kart-tyres versus don’t-brake-and-bicycle-tyres-are-the-way-to-go. Someone was right.

The debate still ping-ponged under my helmet as the Red Bull crew gave the boxcart an enthusiastic shove off. The first half of the course – the long downhill – was the key to a fast time. It was here that having tyres with little rolling resistance offered huge time bonuses… the only problem being could one carry that speed through the three-corner chicane at the end of it?

There was time to ponder this, head tucked down low on the long straight. Just enough time to make the wrong decision, as it turned out. With a soundless “braking is for girls” rippling across my lips, I stayed off the pedal and…. well it went reasonably well for the first corner, got a little sketchy through Turn Two, and then all turned into a shower of yellow straw at Turn Three. Carrying way too much speed than the wide profile go-kart tyres could handle, the boxcart understeered straight off through the hay bales.

Fortunately the impact absorption of the hay and the generous run-off area meant the only thing bruised was pride.

Brakes 1, Steve 0.