Get on your soap box

… or perhaps the title of this post should read, “Get in your soap box”?  May 14th was Ascension Day, and in France that day is a public holiday, and thus the perfect occasion for Saint-Chinian to host a soap box race, for the first time ever.  “But how would you race a soap-box?” I can just hear someone asking.  In France, home-made go karts are called Caisses a Savon, because at one time they would have been made from old soap crates.  These days a Caisse a Savon can take all kinds of shapes – follow this link for a look at the amazing variety and shapes there are!


Ascension Day is always on a Thursday, and so the market was taking place that morning in the main square of the village, just next to the finishing line for the race.  The organisers of the race had been hard at work since before dawn.  During the morning, rehearsals were taking place, so the participants could get a feel for the hillside!  The official starting time for the races was set for 2pm and it started promptly!  There were five heats altogether, with a little break after the third heat.  I went a little ahead of time, to get a good look at the various vehicles. 🙂  As you can see, a great deal of work and imagination had gone into the making of each vehicle:

For the first race I positioned myself near the chicane at the lower end of Avenue de Villespassans – I figured the cars would have to slow down a little and that they would be easier to photograph.

First down the hill was a group of three-wheeled bikes – the drivers did all kinds of crazy manoeuvres, such as going through the chicane backwards and more!

Then came the cars:

It appeared that one of the little cars must have gone too fast – it had what looked like flames and smoke coming out the back!!  On closer inspection, it was “only” red smoke – what fun!! 😀

The last contestant of the first race had a wonderful vehicle, made with a cement mixer and a wheelbarrow, amongst other components.  Unfortunately, it came unstuck at that chicane.  Somehow it got entangled with one of the straw bales – the wheels got rather badly damaged, and it had to limp down the hill to the finishing line. 😦

For the next race, all the Caisses had to get back up the hill to the starting point.  Nothing simpler: the various vehicles got hitched to one another and towed up the hill – what a laugh!!

For the second race I took up position on the hairpin bend, halfway up the road to the windmill.  A professional looking cameraman stood there, filming the race for the relay on the big screen near the finishing line.  Here’s what the screen looked like.  I didn’t take a picture of the cameraman! 🙂


From my position at the hairpin bend, I got a good look at some of the vehicles and their drivers!

Take a close look at the rear end of the “bull” car!  The shopping cart can’t have been very comfortable to sit in, but it looked such fun. I absolutely adored the idea of the sardine can on wheels, and check out the two guys in the Super Mario car with the GoPro helmet cam – their video has been uploaded to YouTube here.

The bicycles came down the hill last, in this race; you can see how they are all over the place! 🙂



The atmosphere was wonderful, and there were many spectators along the “race track”, encouraging and applauding the contestants.  A few of the market stall holders had stayed on for the afternoon, so there was food and drink to be had.  It was a great day, finished off with a concert in the evening.  To be repeated again in 2016 – see you there??

And to finish off, here is another video of the day from YouTube: