A day at the (Red Bull) races

Doug Hartley readies the “Bull-a-Cuda” for the soapbox race.

Bainbridge resident Doug Hartley has built many a car before, but he’s never had to combine the theatrical with the mechanical.

“The skit was the hardest part,” he said. “You’ve got 30 seconds to perform in front of what they’re expecting as 40,000 people so you don’t want to act like an idiot.”

Those interested in what Hartley and his crew – Team Slippery – have up their sleeve can travel to Seattle today to watch the Red Bull Soapbox Race at 1 p.m.

The event, held on Fremont Avenue, is where 36 teams of amateur engineers have worked for months on human powered carts to run them down the hill in competition.

In this soapbox race, the key isn’t so much whether the car is the fastest one on the block, but how cool, outrageous or just plain weird it looks and how entertaining the crew can be in presenting it to the audience.

Hartley said their big skit is to show a clownfish being eaten by a barracuda using costumes before wheeling the racer out for its run, with their theme song – “Barracuda” by Heart – playing the entire time.

“Basically we’re killing a fish to ‘Barracuda,’” he said.

“I hope there’s not too many kids, but, you know, death is OK, just no sex,” he joked.

Hartley, 51, teaches a class in manufacturing technology and aircraft assembly at Opportunity Skyway School in Seattle, which is part of the Interagency Academy, a group of alternative schools in the Seattle School District.

Originally, he and his students were to build a body for a different competition, but Hartley found out about the event through a TV commercial earlier in the year and asked them if they were interested in that.

But with the school year ending on June 22, they had to get everything ready to go before even knowing if they would be the ones picked to compete (teams had to send in a video to be selected to race.)

While taking part in the race is a fun event, Hartley hopes to come home with the first prize of $7,000.

“It’d be really cool,” he said. “I could live with $7,000 – I’ll give some to the school but I’ll take a little chunk.”

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