Scuderia Kouba

Extreme Gravity Racers

gravity cars &
downhill racing!


Are they victims or conspiritors?  See for yourself.


It's not over 'til we say so.  Check out the latest projects at the K-Worx.


Get a taste for the action with pics of the team in the shop and on the slopes.


Want to join us in downhill glory and help sponsor our struggle?  Please contact us today!


It's been awfully quiet again......

Tuesday, March 19, 2019
By Chris
If there is anyone out there checking on this site, I am pleased to inform you that there is yet another Scuderia build happening this year.  Two of them actually...  One of them will still be a single seater but the other will have seating for up to four(!!!)- although only 3 are allowed for the derby.

Stay tuned!!!

Contact info

Thursday, August 16, 2018
By Chris
The derby is this Saturday, 8/18/18, at Mt Tabor.  Cars will start showing up around 8 and racing begins at 10 and wraps around 3 or 4.  The pits are at the top of the hill, come on by and say hi.

If you have any questions about the team, drop a line to:

See you on the hill!

Jenny, Bill, & Chris

It's been awfully quiet lately......

Tuesday, August 07, 2018
By Chris

...and there's a reason.


We've been working very hard on our title defense.  To be blunt, we want to go back to back, and we know we also have a target on our back.  We know we need to run faster this year, and we don't want to tip our hand.


At least not yet.


We have been able to squeak more speed out of the Mk II but the Mk I still needs a bit of development.  The tail section was revised due to rule changes and we made a massive brake upgrade which is still being sorted.  In addition, the wheel pants were destroyed during a testing incident which we know is costing us top end speed.


We have also been working on a completely new car for the 2018 event, put together to address the 4 wheel challenge which the organizers threw out there over the winter (no 4 wheel car has made the final since 2010, never mind win- so we though we'd try).  The car, called the Mk V, has seen its share of development issues but we're hoping to have them ironed out in the next two weeks.  An by "hoping" I mean we need to have them fixed as the event is ~10 days away!


Pics will be leaked as we get closer, but we're hoping to make it interesting for everyone!



PS - Here's a leaked picture of the Mk V:

New Sponsor for 2018

Tuesday, May 29, 2018
By Chris
We are extremely pleased to have a new sponsor on board for this year.  The fine family of accountants at Tabor Accounting Group is excited to be on board with us and are looking forward to supporting our efforts in the unique endeavor that is the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby.

If you're looking for some accounting services, they've been very good to me. Check them out here:  

What does victory look like?

Sunday, September 03, 2017
By Chris

This just in...  Finals finish line pic from Dick Gehrke:

AMAZING Success, and... VICTORY!!!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017
By Chris

The 2017 Portland Adult Soapbox Derby has come and gone, and what an event it was...

The results have not been posted so we're not completely certain of the exact final finishing order for all the Scuderia Kouba/NASTE entries, with the exception of the MkI.  

We won.

The whole thing.  First overall.

UNBELIEVEABLE(!!!) and a FANTASTIC team effort!

At the finish line with my VERY supportive wife:

An earlier heat, from Jeff Burns:

All three cars did extremely well, with all of them earning spots in the finals.  Dennis won his first round final's heat but had his off in the semi's.  For my semi-final heat, I was lined up with two others, one of which blew a tire while just sitting on the start line.  They then pulled Jenny Burns in the MkII up to replace that entry, so one of the Scuderia cars wasn't going to advance that round, and it was her...  I grabbed victory in that round and waited for the final to see who showed up.

MkI & MkII, killing it in the semi's, unfortunately only one of us advanced...:;t=2m34s

It was that gorgeous canoe car and the third place winner from last year.  This was going to be interesting.

With the performance of all three cars, I figured whoever lead into the first corner was going to have a massive advantage, and whoever lead into the Learning Curve was going to take the race.  For this, I owe it to my pusher, Michael Davis, who gave me fantastic starts all day.  What did he look like in action?  Check out an earlier heat from the push cam (didn't capture the final heat):

For the final heat, he got me out ahead of the others with a fantastic start.

Michael (who's not visible) getting me out ahead of Louis in the canoe car:

I was first to get to turn one, a mild left hander, but the canoe car made up a little ground going into the right.  I saw his nose move up along side of me, but I stretched it out into the next left hander with a shorter line to the apex.  This got me far enough ahead to drift out onto the main straight in front of him and hope that I had built enough of a lead to hold him down the straight.

Video from Howie shot about halfway down the straight: & 9FREd6dE9R

Turns out, it was EXTREMELY close heading into that final turn.  Someone else sent me this slow-mo video of our two cars nearing the turn in for the Learning Curve: & ZDLVlBZ1Jn

In the first 4 seconds of the video, you can see the nose of the canoe car within ~18" of the tail of the car- about halfway up the pushing tower we added for the start.  We were that close(!), BUT I WAS IN THE LEAD.  Louis in the canoe car was going to have to drive around me, and would scrub off energy trying to do so...  At the line it looked like this: & RZREpuXzNR

In the end, it was their closest finish ever, and THE FIRST TIME A ROOKIE EVER WON THE EVENT!  Don't me wrong, I wanted to win, and I was aiming to win, and made all my plans to win, but in no way did I ever actually imagine we would pull it off. 

To top it off, although she didn't make the finals, Jenny was the fastest in the Formula 8 class and took home the trophy for that.  Check out the hardware!!!!:
Jenny with the Formula 8 trophy, me with the Numero Uno and Best Rookie trophies

A MASSIVE THANK YOU is due to everyone who helped get me (and Jenny and Jeff) up to the starting line and down to the finish this year.  I can't tell you how much fun I had and what a blast it's been.  I will also give a specific thanks to "Downhill" Bill Bostic for being the glue that held the team together.  I can honestly say that without his time, effort, energy, and enthusiasm, I'm not sure we would have even gotten entered in the event.  Next year, you need to RUN in the event!!!

Part of the Scuderia Fan Club:

I also want to specifically thank my wife Bethany for supporting the 12 year old within me, and allowing Bill and Dave to come over and play in the shop on Thursdays, and for all the evenings she got to spend without me while we played and tested.



More videos found on the internet:

The MkII, I believe with Jenny at the helm:

The Hawksbill Flyer, possibly with Rico at the helm (black shirt?):

Someone really liked us!  All three NASTE cars in a row, with appearing Dennis first:

Then Jenny appears next at 44s as well, then I appear after her at 1m03s.

Dennis, not sure what run:

Me, not sure what run:

Then Jenny and I appear at 3:11; then the final heat finish at 4:23

Back to the Nest

Sunday, July 30, 2017
By Chris
The cars came home this morning after going on tour to a car show at PIR last week.  With all the other things going on, this is likely where the cars will sit until the morning of big day:

July 14th Test Session!

Saturday, July 15, 2017
By Bill

NASTE Gravity Racing Team test session on Friday July 14th.....I don't even know where to start, what an incredible day!

My day started at 6:30am. Hooked up the trailer and headed for the Scuderia Kouba shop in Oregon City to pick up the cars. Once the cars were loaded we were ready to meet up with the rest of the team at The Stagecoach Saloon for some photos and breakfast. We unloaded all the cars at the Stagecoach, took some photos, re-loaded the cars, then headed in for some grub. During breakfast the owner and one of our sponsors Gary, gave each team member a Stage Coach Saloon T-shirt. 

After we had finished' and eating breakfast we all loaded up and headed to the old Reynolds High School to do some push testing on the track. At the Reynolds track we tested different configurations of wood starting blocks for the pushers. The starting blocks were constructed on site during the testing. We tested three different configurations of push poles, with two of them not working out so well.  Chris has to go back to the drawing board prior to the main event.  We practiced our team's starting procedure, and different members practiced the pusher's role in the start. We learned a lot, and after we were all tired of pushing we loaded the SK cars back up on the trailer and headed for our next stop.

The next stop was a quick one at my place to drop off a couple cars and decide on car pools for the run to our favorite test site. On the way to the test hill, or more accurately- test HILLS, we stopped in a little town at a deli for some lunch. The food was good but there wasn't much seating space on the side walk, but we made it work. After lunch it was on to the hills. 

We found a good spot with a good wide shoulder area to set up a pit area. At this section of the road we had a gentle downhill slope into a slightly steeper uphill slope. Total run length was about a half mile, perfect for testing. We unloaded all the cars and marked a start line. In this section of road we ran the cars down the hill from the start line, and then up the hill on the end of the run. At the end of the run we turned the cars around and ran them back downhill towards the original start line. We not quite able to roll the cars clear back to the start line, so we towed them the final few hundred feet back to the pit area.

We made a total of five test runs with the Scuderia Kouba cars, and four with the Hawksbill Flyer. Between runs we made adjustments and changes to the cars for the purpose of speed comparison to validate modifications. We learned a lot about aerodynamics on the cars, and drivers were able to practice their skills to attain the highest speeds possible. After we were cooked from the sun and heat and tired we called it a day. At the end of the testing Jeff Chochon had set the top speed of the day in test section in the MKI. Jenny Burns was close behind in the MKII, and Rico Locati set the fast time in the Hawksbill Flyer.

BUT.....we weren't quite done for the day. We loaded all the cars back up and headed further up the mountain, to the point where we had our prior session with the Scuderia Kouba cars.  After we unloaded and were getting ready for the run we were visited by the U.S. Forest Service. One of their Fire trucks happened to be coming by so they stopped to check and see what we were up to. When the dedicated public servant got out of the truck it was obvious he was searching for some reason to tell us we could not do whatever it was we were doing. When he found our the cars were not motorized vehicles he was struggling for obvious violations of something. He threw out the "...special use permit required to use these roads..." phrase, to which Chris countered with "for bicycles"? 

At this point it was obvious he was lost for words and laws to recite, so he left us with "well don't be surprised if a law enforcement officer stops you". After I replied "OK, thanks for the heads up", they moved on, probably disappointed in not being able to rain on someone's parade.  Getting back to the action, Chris Kouba was belted into the MKI, and Jeff Chochon climbed into the MKII. After a slight push both cars headed down the mountain. Rico and I followed as chase vehicles. 

After Rico and I got turned around on the road and started pursuit we were so far behind the gravity cars it took over 10 minutes to catch back up to them!  At the end of the 14.6 mile downhill run, Chris had upped his top speed record!!!! We forgot to place a GPS in the MKII to record Jeff's run, but Rico said when he finally caught up to Jeff and dropped in behind him he was moving right along. At the end of the run we again loaded up the SK cars and headed towards home. On the way home we met up with the Burns family for some dinner and a little decompression time. We arrived back at my house at midnight to unload the cars and button everything up...........What a day!!!

New Video Uploads

Monday, July 03, 2017
By Chris
From our big test day on the 14m hill.

What a run!

I stopped ~halfway down to check on Bill, whose brakes quit working for him so he wisely called it a day.  I climbed back in and finished the run down the hill- knocking out a total distance of 14.3 miles in a single run.

Thanks to Dave and Dennis for coming out to support the lunacy.

Close to Race Ready!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017
By Bill
As the 2017 Portland Adult Soap Box Derby race date draws closer I'm finishing up the little details to get the MKII race ready. I built a cockpit cover out of 1" x 3"s and covered it with clear plexiglass. Aluminum angle attached to the bottom of the 1x3s keeps it in place over the cockpit.

I mounted motorcycle bar end convex mirrors to the sides of the cockpit cover.

I found some plastic bicycle wheel covers on Ebay. I mounted them using nylon bolts and lock nuts.

All painted and logo'd up for our sponsors!

MKII Update

Thursday, June 15, 2017
By Bill
Thanks to Howie for the flames! And thanks to Shane Howard for volunteering to handle the driving duties for the photo shoot!

Wow!! Painting the MkII

Monday, June 12, 2017
By Chris
Howie stopped over at Bill's and put some magic touches on the MkII.  Here's a teaser of what it'll look like:

A small part of Team Scuderia Kouba

Tuesday, June 06, 2017
By Bill

MKII Gets Paint

Monday, June 05, 2017
By Bill
The SK MKII got its white base coat of paint today.

My Ride is Kouba-fied!

Saturday, June 03, 2017
By Bill

Finished up the striping today. It ain't perfect but it didn't cost $600 either! ....$30 did the job!


Friday, June 02, 2017
By Bill
Good race teams always have a chase/tow vehicle sporting their livery and sponsorship. Make NO mistake, we are a RACE TEAM!.......we just don't have any motors........

Update - June 2017

Thursday, June 01, 2017
By Bill
Today Chris and I finished up the body work on the MKII. Next Thursday it will receive a white base coat of paint, and then Howie will be masking it off and painting red flames!

Insect Collection

Wednesday, May 17, 2017
By Chris
Upon reviewing the cars after our day in the hills, I noticed that I had started an insect collection on my roll bar after the 14.3 mile pass...  

Veteran Driver 1946 - Dick Gehrke

Monday, May 08, 2017
By Bill
These photos are of our team member Dick Gehrke when he was a kid in 1946 racing in the Official Soap Box Derby!

May 4th Test Session - Turns Into an Outstanding EVENT!

Friday, May 05, 2017
By Bill
I don't know where or how to even start to describe my day yesterday. I'll start with AWESOME! I did NOT leave the road in any of the test sessions. I was very happy with the Hawksbill Flyers performance, which by the way it raised its fastest posted speed!

 I felt the rush of adrenaline multiple times! I drove a 3 wheeled, non motorized vehicle at speed for extended periods of time. I piloted that same car through multiple hairpin corners in full lock rear wheel slides without brakes! I scared the shit out of myself multiple times!.......................MAN, what a fun day!

Thanks to all the team members that made it out to make this day happen! Howie, Beau, Dave, Jeff Chochon, Jeff & Jenny and the little Burns, Dennis, and BIGSBY! For those of you that don't already know, Bigsby is The only official 4 legged member of the Scuderia Team. And to Chris Kouba! Chris has made all of this possible by building some fantastic gravity cars! And to Dennis Hart. Dennis put us on this path by building the first gravity car and introducing us all to this insane world!

Creative Science School auction winner - Jeff Chochon

I have a lot to process (and not just in my head) from yesterday's event. There were many pictures taken as well as videos so as they arrive I will be posting more information on the Scuderia Kouba website as well as the Gravity racers Facebook page, and the site.

Making Changes for Test Run 2 this Thursday

Tuesday, May 02, 2017
By Bill
I thought I was all done with making changes to the Hawksbill Flyer and that mechanically it was ready for the race in August. Well, not so much as Sunday's test proved! In last years testing I experienced the same kind of weaving. On the first test run last year I almost lost control, however after that run we tightened up the steering cables and I could at least keep the car on the road, provided I stayed in the center of the road on the yellow line. The tendancy for the car to start weaving seems to set in right as you aproach or reach 40 MPH. Last year I reached a 43 MPH top speed in the Flyer as registered by the GPS. The weaving started just as I was exiting the right hand sweeper turn in the test course. On Sunday's run we had no GPS to record our speeds, however the weave set in well before I even entered the right hand sweeper. To me the car felt faster with the additional 50 pounds of weight over last year's weight. Howie was following me in his pickup and said he saw 40 MPH on his speedometer. He lost sight of me through the right hand sweeper and was suprised to find me in the ditch when he came around the corner!

I had no plans to return to our test site for additional runs, but after Sunday's less than satisfactory run I feel it necessary to get in a couple more test runs. At the Mt. Tabor PDX Adult Soap Box Derby I must be able to control this thing, and control it well. I will not be the only car on the road, and spectators line the sides of the road. 

Sunday's test run left me with some issues to try and sort out. I've made a few changes to try to address those issues. I replaced one of the spring mounted idler pulleys with a stronger spring. This keeps the cable much tighter. I'm not positive the spring loaded pulleys helped the loose steering issue or made it worse. But I see two advantages to having them installed. 1. It eliminated the looseness of the cable that occurs when the direction of steering is reversed, i.e. turning left then turning right. 2. It makes it much easier to gauge the tightness of the steering cable and adjust it accordingly. We'll see what difference it makes with the stronger spring tension.

UPDATE: Early Thursday morning I removed the spring tension pulleys. As it turned out this was a big improvement! The spring tension pulleys seemed like a good idea to me, but did not prove out.

I swapped out the bottom seat cushion to a thinner one. While not nearly as comfy it does lower me approximately an inch in the cockpit. I know that doesn't sound like much but room/space-wise it is huge. That also lowers my knees by one inch for added steering clearance (which was an issue!). Some of you may understand the significance of this photo....

I added an additonal 20 pounds of weight ballast behind the seat back mounted to the floor. That brings the car's total weight up to 294 pounds. This did not affect the car's weight balance much at all. It went from 64% front & 35% rear, to 62% front & 38% rear. I was wanting to try a little more rear weight bias. This additional 20 pounds of weight is totally tunable, it can be varied and relocated easily.

The last change I am making is to replace the round car type steering wheel with a yoke type of steering wheel with vertical hand grips. The flat horizontal mounted round steering wheel just did not work in the tight confines of this car. Add to that the fact that the car's builder Dennis Hart is much taller than me, so the steering column itself is a stretch for me!

UPDATE: Thanks to Chris and a late night work session Wednesday, I was able to get the steering wheel swapped out for a yoke type of set up. This set up worked very well during Thursday's testing.

So those are the changes I'm trying for this next test. My main concern is steering and car control. The additional brake helped a lot so I'm OK with the braking. Not great, but almost adequate. If we don't see some substantial improvements in car control Jimmy Jones has some ideas about converting the car to a bell crank steering system. So if there are still steering concerns after this next test I will consider scrapping the cable operated steering and trying Jimmy's design. The only other option would be to drag the brake and keep the car's speed below the point at which the weaving starts. That sounds like NO fun to me!......

Of course this wasn't much fun either!

Hawksbill Flyer Test Runs April 30, 2017

Sunday, April 30, 2017
By Bill

Today the Hawksbill Flyer and I bonded. I mean REALLY bonded.

With help from my friend Howie, my wife Diane and my granddaughter Cailin I made a short, quick test run down a side street close to our house. The run went pretty well although short, and I only had to run one stop sign. I did not attain much speed in the short run, but I noted a few things. Right off I noticed the steering was much easier, requiring much lighter pressure on the steering wheel to turn. The addition of the second brake system in the rear of the car makes a BIG difference! I also noticed a slight tendency for the car to want to weave or swerve ever so slightly while it was accelerating (more about that later). I dismissed the weaving as it was very minor and easily controlled. Good run, I'm a happy camper.....but then again I'm pretty sure I didn't break 20 MPH......

After the first run Howie and I went for some lunch at The Stagecoach. During lunch we did a fair amount of bench racing and talked about taking the Flyer to another hill. A bigger hill because I wanted to get some seat time at a faster speed. The slight tendency to weave was still on my mind. From the previous tests last year I knew the Flyer could weave violently and I really wanted to know how the revised steering was going to handle that type of situation if it re-occurred. The problem to taking the Flyer to another location to test involved getting the 274 pound behemoth into the back of Howie's pickup truck.

After lunch we returned to my place. After some discussion we decided to put my Harbor Freight ramps up to the bed of Howie's truck and see if we could roll the Flyer in. It was close but the nose of the Flyer just barely hit the tailgate before the front tires were in the truck. We found a couple 2x4's in the garage and made a second ramp for the rear tires from the ground to the main ramps. We were then able to push the Flyer into the bed of the truck until the underside of the car hit the edge of the tailgate. A little lift on the back end and she rolled right in. This effort resulted in the conclusion that, hell it's in, now we HAVE to take it somewhere!

We decided the best place for the next test run was last year's Scuderia Kouba test sight. So off we went. We arrived at the test sight and although there was a little bit of debris on the road here and there, it looked pretty good. We unloaded the Flyer and got ready for a run. I rolled slowly down the hill to the yellow mark we made on the roadside last year to mark our official start line and stopped (wow, that second brake REALLY does make a big difference!). Howie pulled up behind me and off we went. A couple things went through my mind as I negotiated the first right hand turn.

1) man, this thing does turn a lot easier.
2) man, was this thing this fast last time?
3) I think I should have tightened up the steering after that last run.

As I negotiated the left hand turn a couple more things came to mind.

1) I don't remember going this fast this early in the run last year.
2) I REALLY should have tightened up the steering after that last run!

After the left hander things got really exciting really quickly! The hill's incline steepens at this point and starts into a mild sweeper to the right. A couple more things came to mind.

1) I am definitely picking up some speed now!
2) Uh comes that mild weaving.

Then the acceleration really picked up and so did the weave! The car started hunting left, right, then left again. It was all I could do to try and catch it and re-direct it to the other direction. Last year I encountered the same type of weaving which we found to be due to the loose steering cables. Last year we had more people on the hill to monitor traffic so I had the entire width of the two lane road to use up. This time it was just Howie and me so I was trying so I was trying to stay in the correct right hand lane. As the right hand sweeper tightened up a bit on exit, more thoughts came to mind.

2) I can save it.
3) Oh shit I'm going fast!

Somewhere about 40 MPH as I was trying desperately to catch the weaving exiting the right hand sweeper the right front tire crossed the white fog line and started flirting with the non-paved shoulder. A couple things came to mind.

2) I can save it!

After a final left swerve right swerve, the right front tire dropped off the pavement onto the dirt and gravel shoulder. A couple things came to mind.

1) Oh shit this could be bad!
2) Oh shit this IS bad!
3) I shouldn't have left my helmet at Chris' on Thursday!
4) Stab the brake!

When the right front tire left the pavement I stomped on the foot activated mid ship brake. The car was slowing but not as much as I'd liked. I did not use the rear hand activated brake for fear that I was causing damage to the brake rod. Then I realized a couple things.

1) There is a hell of a lot of trees next to this road!
2) This thing doesn't handle worth a damn off road!

Well the Flyer stopped. I had a safe barrier between me and that big ass tree directly in front of me.

After the excitement Howie and I assessed the damage. Very minor body damage and no damage to the brake rod. I did pick up quite a few sticks, sod, and dirt in the brake pad and rod. There was quite a nice furrow plowed from the time I left the pavement by the brake pad and rod! Walking back up the hill you could see where I braked when the right front tire left the pavement as evidenced by the black skid mark. There was only about four feet of skid mark, followed by fifty yards of furrow! It was an exciting run, and I learned a couple things.

1) Cable steering SUCKS!
2) Center pivot steering SUCKS!
3) Leaving the pavement in the Hawksbill Flyer SUCKS!

On the way back to my place Howie and I discussed the day's events and possible solutions to the problems. The best solution we could come up with would be to scrap the cable operated center pivot steering completely. But if I go to that extreme the Hawksbill Flyer will be something else in my opinion. So for now I will tighten up the steering and replace the round steering wheel with something of a different design to see if I can improve control. All in all it was a good day of testing - up until I left the road!

When will we EVER get sunshine....

Sunday, April 30, 2017
By Chris
Having had a gorgeous Th/Fri/Sa, I had arranged with Bill for a dawn patrol run for the MkI and MkII this morning.  However, it was not to be.  I heard rain on the roof during the night and awoke to soggy streets this morning.  UGH!

Unfortunately, it has neither rained nor gotten sunnier since then, so it feels like a missed opportunity for some seat time, but it's off to bed and work tonight.  Bill may have made it out with Howie this afternoon for some Flyer shakedown.  Hope to see a post from him later, WITH PICS if that's the case.

The Mk I Breaks Cover

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
By Chris

Taking advantage of sun breaks on Saturday, the Mk I was dragged from the innards of the SK workshop and run at our small test hill.  Neighbors and friends were on hand and got to make some runs, but the guest of honor was my dad.  It was his first time seeing the racer and he was thoroughly entertained.

Scuderia Kouba MKII on loan to Buckman Arts Elementary School

Monday, April 24, 2017
By Bill
The Scuderia Kouba MKII, although still under construction, is on loan to be displayed at Buckman Arts Elementary School in Portland. The opportunity to pilot the MKII in one of the qualifying races at the Portland Adult Soap Box Derby will be auctioned off at the school's fund raising auction in May. This will be the second "ride" auctioned off as the first auction took place at Creative Science School earlier this year. The two auction winning drivers will also have the opportunity to get some seat time during practice sessions before the race.

All you Creative Science and Buckman Arts Elementary folks need to come out and root for your drivers this coming August 19th at Mt. Tabor Park!





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