Canyon Lake residents Matt Szymanski, Scott Covey, Dave Rowan, Anthony Rowe and Nate Duer represented Canyon Lake with their soapbox, “Street Taco,” in the Red Bull Soapbox Race 2017 on Aug. 20 at Elysian Park in Los Angeles.
Team Street Taco was one of 300 race applicants and one of only 70 accepted. Sixty-three crafts made it to the actual race. “It was the largest Soapbox race in Red Bull history, and they’ve had over a hundred of these,” said Scott.
Red Bull judges selected the teams based on ingenuity, creativity, racing capability and adherence to design regulations.
Soapboxes had to be solely human powered with no engines or batteries and built from environmentally friendly, non-toxic materials. Crafts can be no larger than six feet wide, seven feet high, 12 feet long and weigh under 176 pounds. All crafts were required to be equipped with steering and braking devices.
Each of the Street Taco members played an important role in the design and building of the craft. Scott drew up the concept sketches and Matt, a mechanic, Dave, a metal fabricator, Anthony, an iron worker, and Nate an electrician, worked on the frame and mechanical aspects of the craft.
“We tried different taco shells and modified our cheese a few times,” said Scott. “We all struggled with the meat until Anthony’s wife Andi came up with the idea of using crumpled butcher paper.”
The team had five weeks to build their craft. “ I’m sure Matt’s neighbors got a kick out of the five of us wearing our sombreros and ponchos while practicing our dance skit on his lawn. Plus we had a few late night build sessions, so thank you for the patience all of you Schooner Dr. neighbors,” said Scott.
Prior to the race, Red Bull’s production team traveled to Canyon Lake to photograph their craft at Holiday Harbor Park and at Matt’s home where it was built.
When word of the Street Taco craft reached Taco Bell, Taco Bell invited the team to bring their craft to the Taco Bell worldwide headquarters in Irvine. The team was welcomed with an electronic billboard in the lobby that read, “Taco Bell Welcomes Team Street Taco.”
While the team toured the headquarters and were treated to lunch, their craft was displayed in the lobby for employees and visitors to admire. On race day, the team performed a dance skit donned in taco-tastic costumes that included sombreros and ponchos. Matt drove the craft, Scott served as co-pilot/brakeman and the other team members served as the pit crew.
Participants were judged based on race time speed, the creativity of craft design and the showmanship/race performance of the craft and team. At stake was the top prize of $6,000.
In the end, the team placed 28th. Although they didn’t walk away with a win, they feel like winners. “We feel like winners because after touring Taco Bell’s headquarters they gave us all free tacos for a year,” said Scott.
This was not the team’s first Red Bull race. Sticking to their original theme of tacos, team Street Taco has gone from Down Hill Taco (Tacozilla) at Red Bull Schlittentag to Flying Taco at Red Bull Flugtag.
The first team consisted of Scott, Anthony and Terry O’Brien, a friend from Las Vegas. Their first race was in 2010 at the Red Bull Schlittentag Race, a downhill snow sled race, at Alpine Meadows near Lake Tahoe.
The team designed and built their very first taco themed craft, dubbed Tacozilla, on a windsurf board. They donned Jack in the Box heads they found on Craigslist as they raced downhill in their craft. “Visibility was really tough in the Jack in the Box heads. It was like looking through a peephole in the door,” said Scott.
The teams were judged on showmanship, creativity and speed. Even with the poor visibility and difficulty of keeping Tacozilla upright, they won second place, “The crowd went nuts and we were hooked,” said Scott.
The following year, Nate, who later joined the team, pulled Tacozilla behind his golf cart in the Canyon Lake Fiesta Day Parade.
In 2012, the team traveled to San Francisco to enter their second Red Bull race, the Flugtag. The Flugtag is a flying race where homemade, human powered flying crafts are launched off a pier. Crafts can be no longer than 33 feet and weigh no more 475 pounds, including the pilot.
The Flugtag is one of Red Bull’s largest events, drawing crowds of 125,000 or more.
For the Flugtag, the team added Matt, Dave and Nate. They designed and built a flying taco craft with a wingspan of 30 feet. “This craft was by far the hardest to build,” said Scott. They named the team Skyjackers and, once again, donned their Jack in the Box heads in the race.
Teams were judged on showmanship, creativity and distance. The Skyjackers managed to fly 47 feet and take third place.
“We are motivated by the feeling of camaraderie we experience at these events. Our ultimate goal is to make it onto the advertisement that gets put out for these events,” said Scott.