Every year, the mountainous town of Artena holds a wooden soap box derby. The vehicles have to be made of 100% wood and not a trace of any other material. Thousands of people flood to the “Palio delle contrade di Artene” every year in costume, to watch the wood-only race known as the “La Carattella.”
The idea of La Carattella originates from the 1900’s from the Mayor at the time. It came from wanting to create a meeting point for all of the citizens of Artena and Contrada, the race still runs to this day and is only part of the fair that takes place annually.
The competition has led to the engineering of wooden roller bearings for the wheels to give one of the racers, Alessio, a competitive edge. Two people race each kart, one at the front working the brakes, and somebody at the back to hop on and off whenever necessary. The course includes obstacles such as hay bales. Alessio and his team came up with idea of using roller bearings for their kart, without evidence of wooden roller bearings prior to this, Alessio set out to invent them himself.
The wooden roller bearings are built into the wheel hub and are just like those made from hardened steel. Alessio’s team chose to use Lignum Vitae, a self-lubricating wood. Unfortunately during the race, Alessio’s driver crashed the kart twice (maybe it was all that extra speed!) so they did not win the 2014 race. However, Alessio has his eyes on the prize for this year’s race, so much so that he is keeping his new design ideas top secret!
Take a look at Alessio’s website with details of what he was thinking and how his idea for kart with wooden roller bearings came about.