Slip, sliding away…

Pod racing
Participants huff and puff for a good start as racing homemade cardboard pods was the order of the day Feb. 28 on the Marineau hill at 4 Wing. Photo: Cliff Kenyon

Pod racers take on the hill

Cliff Kenyon

What does it take to be a winning pod racer?

How about a driver with nerves of steel, a dedicated pit crew and a cutting edge design team?

Nope. You don’t need any of those.

What you need is a group of Canadian Armed Forces members who understand that camaraderie and having some fun are essential parts of the job. Oh, and some cardboard boxes and duct tape.

An acceptable pod race vehicle, it seems, is just about anything you can make out of a cardboard box to slide down a snow covered hill on a beautiful Cold Lake afternoon.

Also, you can add some embellishments to make your ride impress.

Hundreds of spectators turned out Friday at Martineau hill for what some claimed was the second annual 4 Wing pod race. There was one last year and it may happen every year, weather and ambitions permitting.

The theme this year was Star Wars, with racers fitted out with intergalactic accessories such as engines which were really cardboard tubes.

Spectators viewed the vehicles at the start line on a warm, sunny winter day. They pointed out flaws and marvelled at the creativity of the designs.
Among them was 4 Wing Commander Colonel Dave Moar. Impressed by the vehicles, although they were merely decorated cardboard boxes, he took his own photos of the fun.

One had handle bars, which turned out to be quite useless. One of the racers had a plastic windshield, which was an interesting addition but perhaps as useless as the handlebars? I guess wishful thinking was also part the fun. One had what looked to be engines along the side, circular like a jet. Again, quite useless, especially because they fell off after the first run and had to be taped on again. That seems to be one of the rules of pod racing. If something falls off your racer you are allowed to tape it back on again between heats.

The races began, with team members shoving the racers at the stop of the hill, with drivers hoping to make it to the base of the hill and across the finish line.

Some, probably of inferior design, made it only part way down the hill.
“They have no control. It’s because of the jet wash,” a spectator speculated.

There was talk that in later heats the smallest of the vehicles may be the fastest, leaving the larger creations in their wake. Wrong. If you are wondering for future years, the bigger pod racers were the fastest, making it across the finish line and some even over the snow covered berm at the bottom.

And to make it more challenging, the driver is to get to the bottom of the hill holding a cup of chocolate milk. Perhaps that makes it easier to tell who crashed on their way down? The racers climbing back to the top of the hill covered in chocolate milk clearly had some driving issues.

And the winner was, out of about six racers that finished down the hill most the time, 1 Air Maintenance Squadron.

But it seemed everyone who took part and the spectators were all winners. At the end, they talked about which designs worked best, questioned whether the warm temperatures help. And what about the snow?

There were no losers. There were smiles, laughter and comradery. Perhaps the most important part of the competition.

Oh, and you can use the cardboard boxes over again.

Pod racing
A racer is ready to go in a cardboard creation. Photo: Cliff Kenyon
Pod racing
10 FTTS pod pit crew dressed the part for the competition. Photo: Cliff Kenyon
Pod racing
Photo: Cliff Kenyon
Pod racing
Photo: Cliff Kenyon
Pod racing
Photo: Cliff Kenyon
Pod racing
Photo: Cliff Kenyon