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The Elote Loco? A Srirachcar? Soapbox racers prepare to speed through Elysian Park

Red Bull soap box race in Elysian Park

Soapbox cars will race down Angels Point Road

By BARRY LANK

A giant Sriracha bottle on wheels, a non-motorized car that looks like the van on the Scooby Doo cartoon, and another car shaped like a sloth. These are among the 70 entrants converging on Elysian Park this Sunday, Aug. 20 for the latest Red Bull Soapbox Race.

Teams from around the world – though heavily from California – will race engine-less vehicles down Angles Point Road, along a half-mile course lined with bales of hay, according to race organizers.

Obstacles along the way will include curves and ramps. It was on a ramp jump in a previous competition in Seattle, as a matter of fact, that the giant bottle of Sriracha lost all its wheels.

The cars have no engines or drive chains. There is no pedaling or pumping. With just steering and brakes, they just go only as fast as gravity will take them – which, for at least one team in a previous Red Bull race, was about 45 miles an hour.

While some cars this year look like an overturned porta-potty, a shuttlecock, and a hospital gurney, a common theme is food – such as a fruit cart, beer and spicy Cup Noodles. One team to beat, in fact, is a giant street taco – from a team in Canyon Lake, Calif. – which has already won the competition twice.

Another team with a Latin street-food motif is Elote Loco, whose car looks like the team’s namesake – a giant ear of roasted corn with the traditional condiments of mayonnaise, cheese, butter and chili powder.

“Hopefully it’ll look edible,” said team captain Ricardo Melgar.

Standing behind the Elote Loco car is a group of engineering students from East L.A. College – a group who’ve been regularly participating in competitions of human-powered vehicles (in which pedaling, for example, is allowed). Though five of the students are listed on the Red Bull application, around 13 or 14 engineering students have been helping with development.

Why a car that looks like an elote loco?

“We wanted something you recognize as soon as you see it,” Melgar said. Plus, with a giant ear of corn, he said, “You can fit two people, and it’s aerodynamic.”

Not everyone is happy about the race, though – as some are worried about the integrity of the park.

“Our position is that there are sections of the park that are designated for commercial use (such as Grace E. Simon’s Lodge, Montecello de Leo Politi picnic area, and other picnic areas, as well as Dodger Stadium) and that commercial events should be limited to these areas,” said Philip Murphy, president of the Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park.

Murphy said, however, that he has received reassurances from the L.A. Department of Recreation and Park that they will try to mitigate the effects of traffic, parking, congestion, trash, safety risks and potential damage to the park.

The races go from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spectators, who will be shuttled from the Dodger parking lot to the course, can start looking at the soapboxes in the pit area at 9:30 a.m. The winning teams will be crowned at the awards ceremony at around 4:30 p m.

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