News Article

Putting the “World” in the Soap Box Derby World Championships

AKRON, Ohio (May 31, 2024) – Many people not as familiar with the Soap Box Derby racing world, tend to think of the annual FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, which takes place on July 20 in Akron, Ohio, as something just that – all “American.” And who would blame them? The majority of the 100-plus race cities sending kids to compete are in the U.S.

But if you look at the history of the race, it is much more. It is indeed a World Championship race and there is a reason the governing body is  named the International Soap Box Derby (ISBD). Because every year, competitors from around the globe travel to Ohio for a chance to be named Best in the World.

These days, they herald most commonly from Japan, Germany, Canada and Australia. But in the earlier days of the Derby, when GM’s Chevrolet division sponsored and managed the Soap Box Derby program from 1934 through 1972, GM Overseas also sponsored races in a number of countries. Since Chevrolet ended their sponsorship, participation from other countries decreased, but it didn’t end. This year, the ISBD is expecting Champs to compete in Akron from Japan and Canada.

Take, for example, 10-year-old Jo Kitamura from Yokohama, Japan. Jo was the 2023 Local Stock Champion racing out of Kanagawa, Japan. Jo did not go home with the title of World Champion, but it’s safe to say, judging from the photos alone, he had a pretty fun time here in Akron. His father, Yumi Kitamara, said that Jo won’t be back this year, but to look for his little brother in a couple of years. We look forward to meeting him, as well as this year’s Japanese Champion!

 

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