2018 Mickelgate Run Soapbox Challenge - photo special

Bath time is something of a challenge

Bath time is something of a challenge - Credit: Charlotte Graham

When a fleet of unusual vehicles hit the streets in York photographer Charlotte Graham was there to see them.

Crowds gathered as some of the strangest vehicles lined up for what must be one of the most unusual road races to take place in the centre of York, or possibly anywhere else in Yorkshire. It was time for the annual Mickelgate Run Soapbox Challenge.

Something like 40 companies and organisations put their person-powered vehicles through their paces on timed runs down Micklegate, just inside the city walls. They faced straights, curves and even cobbles before reaching the finish line at the bottom of the hill.

This year’s event, the third to be held, was opened by ‘Fast Donnie’ Schoettler, the 60-year-old gravity racing world record holder, who has reached speeds of 99.41mph in a gravity-powered car.

‘The Micklegate Run Soapbox Challenge is a truly unique event to York, and last year saw around 20,000 crowd the pavements the length of the route to watch soapbox cars of all shapes and sizes zoom off from the starting ramp and make the full journey down the hill, including the infamous bone-shaking cobbles towards the bottom of the hill,’ said Andrew Lowson, executive director of York BID, which is the event’s sponsor this year.

‘There can be few better ways of reminding people of Micklegate’s unique charms and showcase the businesses along the street, and we’re delighted to be working with the Micklegate Business Initiative on this year’s event.’

Indeed, a team from York BID’s Street Rangers took part in the race in a specially-built soapbox, raising money for York Rescue Boat.

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‘We’re delighted to have Fast Donnie along to help us open this year’s event, though I should imagine that few competitors will hope to achieve the normal speed limit of 20mph, let alone nearly 100mph in the assorted vehicles we have entering,’ said Julian Smith, who runs the café at 84 Micklegate, and has led the organisation of the event for the Micklegate Business Initiative this year. ‘We are, however, hoping to raise a huge amount of money for charity through sponsorship, with each team nominating its own good causes.’