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T-splines helps win Red Bull Soapbox race


Team Spitphya (AKA Xenophya Design) have won the 2013 London Red Bull Soap Box Race. Dubbed the “world’s wackiest road race”, the Red Bull Soap Box Race is held in cities across the world. Last in the UK in 2003, this year’s event was held at Alexandra Palace in north London.

70 competitors were selected from several thousand applications and included a coffin, an 8 foot effigy of Usain Bolt, a slice of Victoria sponge cake and a rolling rugby scrum. Each team was judged not only on their time down the hill but also the creativity of their theme and ability to entertain 20,000 noisy spectators with a 20 second performance before their run.

The course was run down 430m of North London hillside incorporating 3 jumps and a set of stairs designed to create as much carnage as possible. The crowds weren’t disappointed with numerous spectacular crashes throughout the day at speeds of up to 40mph. Blood was split and bones broken. Parc fermé tellingly comprised of two lanes, one for ‘keepers’ and a skip!

Team Spitphya’s soap box, named the ‘Phyabird’ was inspired by land speed record breakers of the 20s and 30s; Malcolm Campbell, John Cobb, Henry Seagrave et al.

Mark Wells, Ian Wride, Greg Seed, Roy Norton and Thomas Kasher, a group of workmates from motorcycle design agency Xenophya Design, employed the same processes that they apply in their ‘day jobs’ in the creation of the Phyabird. The tubular spaceframe was designed in Rhino 3D CAD to fit perfectly around driver Greg Seed who was digitised using a FARO arm. A full scale clay model of the land speed racer style body was then created which was then moulded in fibreglass and painted in Bluebird Blue.
“We’ve ended up taking this project a bit too seriously – and allowed it to take over most of our lives.” Said team captain and Xenophya Director Mark Wells. “The goal was always to be first down the hill, no matter what the judges thought of us”.

In the quest to be fastest Team Spitphya wanted to create a retro aerodynamic, teardrop- shaped, streamlined body shell that would fit around the full suspension steel chassis. The wheels needed to fit within the elegant tear drop wheel fairings, allowing for a steering lock of around 19 degrees and suspension travel of 40mm. To create the organic body shell the team used T-splines working the model around the Rhino NURBS model of the chassis. The simple sculptural forms were created as a tangible way of evaluating and evolving the body shell in parallel to the chassis design. As the chassis design evolved the T-Splines model was manipulated and updated. Once the design was fixed in T-splines the model was sectioned and templates created for clay modelling to commence.

The Phyabird achieved it’s objective of being fastest in style. Greg piloted the cart down the course in 33.57 seconds, some 3 seconds faster than the runners up, hitting the final ramp at around 40mph and flying approximately 10 metres through the air! Combined with a judges’ score of 39 out of 40 for the performance this put Team Spitphya on the top step of the podium.
“We’re elated to have won the event” said Mark, “it goes some way to justifying the immense amount of work that has gone into the build”. With some minor repair work to do, the Phyabird will hopefully be appearing at soap box events around the country later in the year.

Video footage of the winning run is available to view at YouTube:

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