Little Compton racers shine at Soap Box Derby


Little Compton brothers Zachary and Noah Rousseau finished second and fourth respectively in the Super Stock Division of the 18th annual Ocean State Soap Box Derby on Saturday, May 18 in Newport.

And joining them among the day's top racers that daywas Xan Allen of Little Compton who took fourth place in the Stock Division in the 'Cub Scout' car. There to cheer him on was teammate Sam Bowen who helped build the car and raced it last year.

Zachary had taken second in the state's 2012 Stock Division Champion and represented Rhode Island in Akron, Ohio, last year when the Rhode Island winner opted not to go to the championships. This year Zach raced the 'Modern Carpentry' car (named for his dad Mike Rousseau's business). Noah drove the Rover Landscapes car (his dad's other business).

All three boys are students at Wilbur & McMahon School; Zachary, age 10, is a fourth grader, Noah, age 12 is a 7th grader, and Xan, 10, is a fourth grader.

Mr. Rousseau, who is also  Cubmaster in Little Compton, said his boys likely get their car enthusiasm from him. He's always loved cars, he said, and owns several antiques.

They've now been involved in Soap Box racing for three years.

"It's a terrific thing to get involved in and really embodies the Scouting spirit," Mr. Rousseau said. All of the boys are involved in the entire process — from building the kit cars to driving. "They're learning mechanics — they actually get down underneath the cars with their tools," and physics — "there is a science in figuring where to put the weights to get the most speed out of the car."

And they become good drivers too, especially important on the Memorial Boulevard course down toward Newport's First Beach.

"Unlike Akron (where the nationals are held) which is a straight, steep track, Newport has a curve … In Newport, hitting that curve just right makes all the difference — Here it's all about the driver," and all three Little Compton drivers handled that curve well.

Nearly 30 racers competed in this year's races held in Newport.

First-time racer Robby Dufault of Newport won the 2013 Stock Division title.  Robby is a 1st grade student at Cranston-Calvert and raced in a car sponsored by Farley Law/Cafe Zelda.

2011 Stock Car Champion Madison Rathbun won this year’s Super Stock division title.  Madison placed 14th overall the year she went to Nationals.  Madison was sponsored by the Westerly Lions and attends Westerly High School.

The 2013 National Soap Box Derby Championships will be held at Derby Downs in Akron on July 27.

Mr. Rousseau said the Akron experience last summer was one the family won't forget.

Zach did well, surviving long enough to make three runs in the single elimination format.

"The Derby is a huge event out in Akron— lots of excitement, big crowds, "Mr. Rousseau said.

The stock division is the entry class — simpler cars for children ages 7-12.  No painting is permitted, but decals are allowed.

Super Stock cars are the next level kits for ages 10-17. They are similar builds but are larger and sportier. These cars can be painted, and some feature beautiful artwork.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.