Canadian Grand Prix Reinstated As Soap Box Derby
Above: F1 teams have already started test driving box carts in preparation for the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix
MONTREAL, QC (SP) — It turns out that the 2004 Canadian Grand Prix, which had been cancelled by Formula One President Bernie Ecclestone due to an impending federal ban on tobacco advertising, will take place after all. However, in order to offset the loss of millions of dollars in advertising revenue, the race will take the form of a soap box derby.
“Critics of F1 have often suggested that our races merely measure monetary and technological prowess,” said Ecclestone. “However, by replacing high performance race cars with homemade wooden box carts, no one will be able to deny that the outcome of this race will depend more on the skill and athleticism of the drivers than the kind of vehicles they’re driving.”
Above: F1 President Bernie Ecclestone isn’t sure how staging the race as a soap box derby will be received, but he’s found ways to pacify his nervousness
Next year’s race will not be held at the usual venue, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, named after the legendary Quebec driver who starred with the Ferrari team in the late 70s and early 80s. “Given that Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is flat and the box carts have no engines, it just wasn’t the right kind of course for this race,” explained race director Normand Legault. “Even if propulsion wasn’t an issue, I’m not sure that even the most sturdily built box cart would be able to negotiate the Circuit’s hairpin turn without breaking into pieces.”
For these reasons, race organizers have laid out a new course that takes drivers down the slope of Mount Royal in downtown Montreal. The course has been dubbed “Circuit Naomi Klein”, in recognition of the Toronto-based author whose best-selling book “No Logo” was very influential on Ecclestone’s decision to go forward with the race without any tobacco sponsorship, or commercial endorsements of any sort, for that matter.
Above: Naomi Klein’s “No Logo” provided the philosophical basis for F1’s unprecedented decision to stage the race without any sponsors
F1 briefly considered holding the race at a go cart track in nearby Lachine, Quebec, but abandoned the idea after concerns were raised about driver safety. “Take away the power steering, precision braking and on-board telemetry that all F1 vehicles possess, and race car driving suddenly becomes a very dangerous activity,” said former F1 world champion Mika Hakkinen, who drives for McLaren. “Under those circumstances, I’d feel even less safe than if I were a U.S. soldier currently stationed in Iraq.”
Ecclestone also looked into the possibility of using the bumper cars at Montreal’s popular La Ronde amusement park. Such a move is thought to have been favored by defending champion Michael Schumacher, who has an extensive track record of colliding with his nearest rivals and knocking them out of races at opportune moments. However, La Ronde had already been booked by the Federal Liberal Party to host a national convention on the weekend of the Grand Prix, and was therefore unavailable.
Above: Defending F1 champion Michael Schumacher uses a Vulcan mind meld to gain a psychological advantage over a competitor
Organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix have taken advantage of the dramatically reduced cost of participation in the race by inviting some local soap box derby champions to take part in the event. One of the local heros expected to be a serious contender is eight-year-old Jacob Gursky of Cote-St. Luc, who’s better known in racing circles as Jacob Two-Two because his lucky number 22 always adorns his cart. Although Gursky has no prior world championship experience, he is extremely familiar with the course, having first ridden on it with his tricycle at the age of three. The fact that this amazing racing prodigy weights only 87 pounds is also expected to give him a decided advantage over his older competitors.
Another Montreal native who has been invited to participate in the Canadian Grand Prix is ten-year-old Rusty Julep, who’s known as ‘Le Grand Orange’ because his family owns a popular local grocery store which specializes in oversized citrus products. The family business has enabled Julep to build one of the most highly regarded box carts on the street, comprised of an exotic assortment of imports, including a chassis derived from Chilean banana boxes, floor boards made from Venezuelan apple barrels, and a steering wheel fashioned from Florida oranges crates.
Above: Unlike traditional F1 vehicles, box carts come in all shapes and sizes
Given the introduction of legislation prohibiting tobacco advertising in other countries which host F1 events, there is mounting speculation that F1 may eventually choose to stage all of its races as soap box derbies. Adding credence to this theory, Ecclestone recently stunned the racing community by announcing that one of F1’s most prestigious races, the Monaco Grand Prix, would not be on the 2004 schedule. In its place will be another soap box derby, the Orlando Grand Prix in Disneyworld.
“I’ve always said that the lack of competitive balance in F1 is a joke,” said 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, who’s had more DNFs [did not finish] due to mechanical failure than podium finishes during his six-year tenure with British American Racing. “Now, no one will be able to dispute my contention that Formula One has become a Mickey Mouse racing series!”
Above: Some argue that a distinct lack of competition has turned F1 into a Mickey Mouse racing series