Viridor Refuse Rocket team aims for Red Bull Soapbox glory

Written by: Editorial staff | Published:

When Viridor’s Peterborough Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) team takes to the track at London’s Alexandra Palace in its Refuse Rocket at the Red Bull Soapbox race on 9 July, it will be to the rousing notes of My Old Man’s A Dustman.

The Red Bull race website says each hand-made machine taking part in the famous downhill race is fuelled by nothing but sheer courage and the force of gravity and the Refuse Rocket team says it is relishing the challenge.

The Peterborough team is engineering its green dream racing machine entirely from recycled parts – including a Viridor wheelie bin (naturally) and a school chair for the driver’s seat.

And with some serious engineering skills to call on, the finished article – a sleek racing machine - is expected to be anything but rubbish.

Team Viridor said it is less sure about its dancing talents for the 20-second presentation before the race and on which they will be scored along with their soapbox design.

But Peterborough ERF shift team leader Lauren Cobby pointed out that what they may lack in dance moves, they will more than make up for with sheer enthusiasm. They have also chosen a song which is a real crowd-pleaser.

My Old Man’s A Dustman is expected to inspire the team who spend its days generating renewable energy from waste.

Joining Cobby on the team are: shift technician Dan Nicholson, who designed the Refuse Rocket and who will be in the driving seat, mechanical technician Martin Bowe, lead mechanical technician Gary Hotchkin, shift team leaders Mark Harriss and Mark Terry with team mascot Angus, the miniature schnauzer.

Cobby said: “We’ve got some old silver rubbish bins and brooms lined up so we can bang the bins and do a bit of a STOMP routine to My Old Man’s A Dustman before the race begins. We are a little nervous about this part of the race...”

But what led them to enter?

The shift team leader said: “Our team had seen the race on telly and we’d talked about it at work and everyone said they would love to give it a go as a bit of a team project.

“Then one day I was at my mum and dad’s house and I saw they were looking for people to apply and I told everyone at work.”

Lauren said she did not think they would actually enter but Shift Team Technician Dan Nicholson, who put the Refuse Rocket prototype model together and who will be in the driving seat on race day, saw their chance and “egged” her on.

“Dan was really keen so we created the model and sent off our entry in December but we didn’t hold out much hope because we knew there were only 70 spaces and they have more than 7,000 applications every year.”

Asked about their design, Nicholson said: “We have been really fortunate to have real engineering skills within the team, so it’s been great to have that talent and hopefully that will give us the edge. The only problem now is, if we don’t win, it will be down to my driving!”

He said the project brought the Viridor Peterborough operations and maintenance teams together which had lead to the Refuse Rocket motto: One team, One love.

Nicholson said the Refuse Rocket has no co-pilot as part of its design, making this a solo mission, with a steel chassis and bash plate adding to the engineering masterpiece built to withstand the serious rigours of the race.

But what of the race strategy: “We really are going to push it. We’ll be after a good start, trying our best to remain central to the track and we certainly won’t be using the brakes too much!”

The aim is to complete work by the end of May and beginning of June, giving the team a month of “tinker time” with the Rocket.

The only problem? Where can the Refuse Rocket find a hill worthy of its practice sessions in the less than hilly Peterborough?

It may be that the 2.5-metre by 1.5-metre racer, which cannot weigh more than 80kg, will have to be transported to Lincolnshire for the crucial test sessions.

The Refuse Rocket team is also keen to use the opportunity to raise some cash for a charity, Anna’s Hope, which helps children and young people with brain tumours.

Viridor has pledged to match their funding to the tune of £2,000 and so the Refuse Rocket team are urging everyone to support them at

This material is protected by MA Business Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.