It’s All Downhill From Here

This weekend, we did not have to go far for entertainment. All week long, signs in Auckland Domain and the roads around warned that the road through the park would be closed during the weekend for the Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix. Though we had very little idea of what this event entailed, we decided to check it out on Sunday afternoon as it was only about a 10 minute walk from our place.

 

As we approached the domain, we were surprised at the number of people also headed to the event. When we arrived, the lawn below the museum was full of people watching a large screen, and many more milled around the food and inevitable Red Bull booths.

thepark
Busy!
redbullcars
We did not have any free Red Bull.

The real action was down the hill a bit more at the starting line. The Red Bull Trolley Grand Prix turned out to be a biennial event where homemade, unpowered but decorated carts did timed runs down a track, complete with bumps and obstacles. The carts were scored not only on time, but also on their appearance and performance by a panel of judges. Each cart typically had a punny, pop-culture theme, such as Greeced Lightning (a Parthenon on wheels),  A-Lad In a Carpet or Optimist Prime. As the cart was brought to the starting line, the team, themselves dressed in costumes, had a chance to do a little skit before shoving the cart and driver(s) down the first ramp. After that, the driver had to navigate the downhill course and avoid crashing into the hay bales on either side of the road. However, there was an award for Best Crash even if they didn’t quite make it down. The fastest carts completed the course in about 50 seconds.

sign
A sign on the track.

We first wandered along the pits, checking out the racers queued up to go and the carts that had already made their run. Sadly, we did not get to see The Rolling Thrones’ top-heavy cart go down the track, but the team was still having a good time even after their run:

gameofthrones
The Game of Thrones crew.
steampunkthunderbirds
A Thunderbirds cart and a steampunk cart.

Of course, we were here to see some racing (and crashing)! As the teams starting making their runs, we slowly wandered down the track to get good views at various corners. The high production value of the event was nice, as screens and many fancy cameras, including a drone and one on a zipline, showed everyone the teams’ full runs down the road.

tank
A tank rolls down the road.
steampunkagain
The steampunk cart does its run.

We eventually ended up back at the starting line, as watching the teams come out, do their skit and be interviewed by the hosts was the most fun. The last group of racers started with a Looney Tunes themed cart, which seemed to be slowed down by its decorations. We thought the next, a Lion King cart shaped like Pumbaa, would suffer the same fate, but it was surprisingly zippy.

looneytunes
The Looney Tunes, with the hosts on the left.
lionking
The green lights mean go for the Lion King cart.

My favorite was the Breaking Bad cart, shaped of course like an RV. They had a skit where guys in gas masks escaped the car as it filled with fake smoke, but sadly life imitated art as their cart crashed spectacularly right out of the gate. M’s favorite was Cool Trolleys, a team based off the movie Cool Runnings. Their skit was quite good, complete with a coach and Jamaican-colored bodysuits, and they even (probably inadvertently) re-enacted the finale of the movie where they crashed halfway through but still made it down the track.

breakingbad1
Nice smoke effect!
breakingbad3
The Breaking Bad team carrying the remains of their cart. Note that the start is just beyond the stage on the right.
coolrunnings1
Cool Runnings crew getting excited.
coolrunnings2
Preparing to push the bobsled car.

Other highlights included a How To Train Your Dragon team which brought a live sheep onto the stage. The sheep pooped while up there, which led one of the judges to award the team a 1 out of 10. The final team was perhaps the most dedicated to their terrible punny name. They were called Jurassic Fart and so had a giant dinosaur contraption, which could move and dance, and a cart shaped like beans on toast.

sheep
The sheep is interested in the Vikings hamming it up.
jurassic1
A giant walking T-Rex …
jurassic2
… and his toast?

We left before the final winner was announced, but it was a fun afternoon spent at the races.

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