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Soapbox Derby Attracts Huge Numbers

Soapbox Derby Attracts Huge Numbers
4 March 2004

Hundreds of young speedsters from around Auckland are vying for the right to race in the Soapbox Derby being held in North Shore City and Waitakere during March.

Competition to qualify is fierce as only 200 children between the ages of eight and 17 years will line up in their imported racecars on Derby Day on March 14 at Kaipatiki Road in Glenfield and on March 21 at Westgate Drive in Waitakere.

Altogether more than 1000 children representing 40 schools in the Auckland region are currently participating in trials. Only five children from each school can reach their local finals. The trial races are held on Recreation Drive, Birkenhead on Sundays.

The best 32 drivers from both North Shore City and Waitakere will then compete for the NZ Championship and the right to represent their country in the World Championship held in Akron, Ohio, USA in July. The NZ Championship will be run down Kaipatiki Road on March 28.

Last year's champion, Alex Keall from Kristin School, intends defending his title but faces strong competition from a number of other experienced drivers. Alex represented New Zealand at the world championships last year, winning two of his races. He was ranked 27th in the world in 2003.

The derby, which is supported by the North Shore City Council, was held for the first time last year. NZ Derby director Paul O'Brien believes that winning a world championship in the USA is a realistic goal for this country in 2004.

"We learned a tremendous amount about the event last year by competing in the states, and those lessons are going to be applied in 2004," he says.

In the USA the Soapbox Derby is huge and supported by the premier racing series, NASCAR. It is not unusual for the World Championship events at Akron to attract more than 20,000 spectators with 500 children from all over the globe competing.

Mr O'Brien says the young male drivers face stiff competition from the opposite sex - young women have won more world championship titles in the last few years than their male counterparts.

ENDS

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