Soap Box Derby drivers from around the world — Amissville included — participated in the 81st International Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, this past week.
Racers from as far away as Germany, Japan, and Canada — more than 200 all told — competed in the annual weeklong event, which has been going strong since 1934. Among them was 14-year-old Jeremiah Foscato of Amissville, who races in the Masters Division.
Jeremiah earned the privilege to represent the Piedmont Area Soap Box Derby by winning his division on June 16 at the Paul Bates Raceway in Culpeper. The derby has four divisions: Masters, Super Stock, Stock, and Super Kids.
There wasn’t much else to do in preparing for the international competition other than conduct a final inspection with Paul Bates himself, who deemed the car ready for Akron. Much thanks was given by Jeremiah and his family to Bates for his invaluable knowledge and assistance in getting ready for the world championships.
The International Soap Box Derby is not just a single day of racing, but a whole week of events revolving around the car, the racers, and their families. All drivers participated in a parade in downtown Akron, followed by an event where each racer is announced on stage. There are also two days of challenge races, and a free day to go to Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Guidelines are very strict regarding the cars and drivers. Maximum weight for a car and driver in the Masters Division is 255 pounds. Weighing took place on arrival in Akron, and is repeated the day before the race, and again on race day.
Jeremiah’s car, for instance, needed 5 pounds removed upon arrival, as he had gained that much weight since June. It all comes down to driver skill and how tight and aerodynamic the cars are.
Race day arrived bright and early at 7 a.m. Drivers began assembling at Topside (where cars are worked on) for a final check. Before the race begins, all the drivers take part in a champions parade down the track, led by Akron Police on motorcycles.
With three lanes, the international track is different than the two-lane Paul Bates track, which makes it a little more challenging to race and stay in your lane. But the larger track is necessary with so many drivers.
The Paul Bates Raceway is actually designed and modeled after the track in Akron. We are very fortunate to have this fabulous family sport right in our own backyard.
As for Akron, Jeremiah’s division was the last to run, and his individual race was almost at the end of the first Masters heat. His dad, Dylan Foscato, was on hand to help his son with race prep. Foscato was also his son’s official “car handler” for the week.
Finally, heat 416 was announced. Jeremiah and his Rappahannock County Masters car were loaded into the blocks in Lane #1. The blocks were released and the headed down the track. It only takes roughly 29 seconds to get down the track, and Jeremiah was .001 of a second short of beating his opponent, Jonathan Durant. It was a photo finish that required race officials several moments of reviewing.
But Jeremiah still had a big smile on his face. “I’m sad I didn’t win or even move on, and I’m sad I won’t be able to race in that car anymore, but I had an awesome week and I plan on racing in the Super Stock division next year,” he said.
Finally, huge thanks goes to Thom Pellikaan for all his organizational help and support of Jeremiah and the rest of the Rappahannock County drivers.