As regular readers will know, part of the work that Yorkshire 4x4 Response does is to support events such as fun runs, marathons, festivals, etc. One of the more unique entries on the calendar is the Harewood Gravity Games, a two-day festival of downhill racing and time trials entirely powered by gravity.
There are a few different types of vehicles used - gravity bikes, luges, skateboards, and a couple of types of carts. One is called a SpecKart, which is a type where all the racers have identical machines so the focus is on the driver’s ability.
The other type is Gravity Carts (sometimes called Soapboxes, but that name is more for the novelty end of the spectrum and not popular at Harewood) - these are custom-made machines of all different styles and materials, and they really show the ingenuity of their creators.
The event is held annually at Harewood Speed Hillclimb, which is a racetrack close to North Leeds. Many of the competitors travel from all over the country as it’s one of the best events of its kind - because of the excellent track, but also the organisation is top-notch and the competitors are very friendly.
So that’s what it is - but what was I doing there? Well, one of the things that makes this event special is that the vehicles are all gravity-powered, gaining speed by travelling downhill. Once at the bottom, they need a way of getting back to the top - and that’s where the volunteers from Yorkshire 4x4 Response come in.
Our job is to attach 5 or 6 carts to a tow line behind our vehicle, and gently tow them back to the starting area - the track forms a loop, so this can be done safely without going against the racing traffic. There are also marshalls at key points around the track who are in constant communication with the control team so they always know who is where on the live track.
As well as this, we also provided other logistical support - from delivering lunches to marshalls and photographers around the track, to moving equipment and personnel, as well as helping racers out where we can with cold drinks and umbrellas for shade.
The weekend of 13/14th August 2022 was during a heatwave in the UK, and temperatures were in the mid-thirties - not pleasant in racing leathers and a helmet. Not particularly pleasant in a Kia Sorento with broken air-con either, I can assure you!
You can see what it's like to make a run in a Gravity Cart in the following video - and you also get to see me connect it to the tow line at the end as a bonus, lucky you!
Yorkshire 4x4 Response also has its own Gravity Cart - really it’s a converted go-kart with a Land-Rover style body, but it does the job. A couple of our responders were able to send it down the hill during quieter periods and after hours, which was a lot of fun - there’s also talk of building a brand-new cart for next year.
It was hard work, especially in the baking heat, but it was a brilliant weekend both for us and for the competitors - sadly no spectators were allowed this year - and we received a lot of good feedback from the racers and organisers so it was nice to be appreciated.
If you get the chance to attend next year, I’d highly recommend it - why not join Yorkshire 4x4 Response and volunteer with us? You don’t need a 4x4, there’s plenty you can help with that doesn’t require you to tow or go off-road.
In the next part of this series, I will share my experiences of my second event as a 4x4 responder - the Run For All Dales Festival 2022! Please subscribe to be updated on new posts as soon as they're published.