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Red Bull Soapbox Glory Awaits Viridor’s Refuse Rocket Team

The Peterborough team with Anna's hope charity

They are the Red Bull Soapbox Race team who put the wheels in wheelie bin…and, when Viridor’s Peterborough Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) team proudly take to the track at London’s Alexandra Palace in the Refuse Rocket on 9 July, it will be to the rousing notes of My Old Man’s A Dustman.

The 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 relish the challenge.

True to Viridor’s message, which emphasises recycling and transforming waste, the Peterborough team are engineering their 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 – will be anything but rubbish.

Team Viridor are less sure about their 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 says 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 bound to inspire this team who spend their days generating renewable energy from waste.

Joining Lauren 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.

She 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?

Lauren 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, Dan 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.

Dan said the Refuse Rocket had 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

Tickets for the event are on sale. For more information, visit where you can also vote for the Refuse Rocket team and secure them the People’s Choice Award.


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