red bull soapbox race

Photo by Bengt Nyman on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Bizarre Car Races

On a recent episode of Downton Abbey, viewers were shocked to see racecar drivers running to their vehicles during a 1925 car race scene. In this day and age, it seems nearly out of this world that race car drivers were once forced to sprint before climbing into their cars and speeding around the track. However, this certainly wasn’t the strangest chapter in car racing history. Over the years, a multitude of strange, exciting and bizarre car races have occurred and some are still currently happening. Here’s a list of seven strange races that are still around.

Gumball 3000

Photo by Ben on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo by Ben on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

If you possess unlimited funds, a supercar and an urge to speed from Dublin to Bucharest, this race may be for you. Founded in 1999, the race is loosely based on a 1976 film and is now attracting stars and royalty—at least according to its website. One thing that’s certain, however, is that participants will have the opportunity to experience the beauty and grandeur of some of Europe’s most famous attractions while zipping around in their luxury cars.

24 Hours of LeMons

Photo by Brian Shamblen on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Photo by Brian Shamblen on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

This race is situated on the polar opposite end of the financial spectrum. This 24-hour competition rewards resourcefulness, creativity, and bravery. Participants are limited to a $500 budget when purchasing and fixing up their low-budget racecars. Anyone who is believed to have spent more than the allotted amount will be penalized with extra laps. Every additional 10 dollars spent will require the driver to take another lap. Indeed, the race is full of colorful penalties and one unlucky jalopy will even be crushed by the competition—literally. Participants vote on the vehicle that they believe should be destroyed. Organizers warn participants that the challenging nature of this race implies that it’s best left to competitors who are in excellent shape and have recently seen a doctor for a physical. The heat is definitely on whenever participants are forced to spin the “Wheel of Misfortune,” which doles out hefty penalties in a very dramatic fashion.

Red Bull Soapbox Race

Photo by Paul Hayday on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Photo by Paul Hayday on Flickr / CC BY 2.0.

Since Red Bull is committed to “giving you wings,” it should not be surprising that some participants in these wild races will go airborne from time to time. Although it’s not technically a car race, these soapbox vehicles have been turning heads ever since the soapbox races laid their humble roots decades ago. Of course, it was a while before Red Bull was created, but this energy drink company managed to reinvigorate this riveting race and put the spotlight on it. The company has now sponsored over a hundred of these events all over the world. From Helsinki to South Africa, spectators have been delighted by this soapbox spectacle. Although motors aren’t permitted in the vehicles, the races still provide many thrills through their use of hills, cranking the soapboxes along at top speeds. Several of the vehicle designs have been very eye-catching, such as a corncob and an extraordinary homage to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.

The California Melee

Image courtesy of Craig Howell on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

Image courtesy of Craig Howell on Flickr, hosted under CC BY 2.0.

In a spirited response to the organizers of Martin Swig’s swanky California Mille, the people behind the California Melee wanted to have some fun creating a race that only stopped at low-rent pubs and seedy hotels. Participants pay a stunningly low fee of $299 for all sorts of perks during this relaxed three-day event. They receive various trinkets to commemorate their race around some of Northern California’s most beautiful towns. All that’s required is a sports car crafted before 1975, and you’re ready for the race.

Carpocalypse Ambulance Chain Race

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, hosted under CC0.

When it came to crafting some of the most bizarre car races of the 2000’s, the television show Carpocalypse was certainly no slouch. One of their most memorable competitions involved ambulances. Not content with simply racing the ambulances, producers chained vehicles behind the ambulances so that each one was toting quite a heavy payload. The results were epic, with bumpers strewn all over the racecourse and non-compliant towed vehicles spinning out behind their respective ambulances. Supposedly, the race was an ode to the old Atari game “Test Drive: Eve of Destruction.” Whatever the inspiration was, this race attained an infamous kind of stature.

The Baja 1000

Photo by Steven Harrell on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Photo by Steven Harrell on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0.

This competition tends to inspire sheer awe. Beginning and ending in Ensenada, Mexico, an incarnation of the Baja 1000 has been taking place for nearly 50 years now. Featuring motorcycles, stock vehicles and even a handful of modified VW Beetles, known as Baja Bugs, this race has built up its own brand of mystique over the years. One of the more shocking aspects of the event is that spectators often join in by setting booby traps around the racing area. They usually do this for entertainment purposes—making the cars fly higher when they hit these unexpected obstacles—but it is this surprise element that makes the Baja 1000 such a dangerous race. These challenges can prove to be a bit too much to handle for drivers who aren’t expecting the unexpected.

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Photo by Juozas Kaziukenas on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Juozas Kaziukenas on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

For a race that challenges your stamina—as well as the steeliness of your stomach—you’ll want to look towards this event. No other car race provides the altitude thrills that this one gives its drivers. Often referred to as the “Race to the Clouds,” this race boasts a whopping 156 turns as drivers coax their cars up the mountain. Beginning at 9,390 feet and ending at 14,115 feet, the course puts both cars’ and drivers’ perseverance to the test. While drivers can feel the altitude beginning to stunt their reflexes, their cars will begin to experience their own issues. High altitudes can reduce an engine’s power by almost a third, leaving the drivers to contend with a weaker vehicle. This race is for the true enthusiast, which is why many competitors spend a significant amount of time preparing for it.

Which of the above races do you think would be most fun to attend?

Did we miss any of your favorite strange car races?

Please let us know in the comments!

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