Baby drivers: Kids zoom down 17th Street in 10th-annual derby race

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Downhill demon: Morten Fischer drives down 17th Street in his handmade racer at the 10th-annual South Slope Derby on Aug. 26.
Race day: More than 50 pint-sized racers plummeted down 17th Street for the competition.
Going green: This racer’s plant-adorned vehicle made an environmentally friendly statement.
Need for speed: Benjamin Kwait-Gonchar pilots his soapbox racer down 17th Street during the 10th-annual derby.

They hit the Slope!

Kings County kids plummeted down 17th Street during the 10th-annual South Slope Derby on Saturday, where pint-sized racers in cobbled-together cars traversed the gnarliest hill in the nabe, according to spectators.

“It’s a good hill,” said Alison Kwait, whose 12-year-old, Benhamin Kwait-Gonchar, competed. “A little crazy, but a good hill.”

The big race occurred at break-neck speeds between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It was the conclusion of a local art association’s week-long derby camp, where kids between the ages of seven and 14 learned how to safely wield power tools and make vaguely vehicle-shaped contraptions from found junk.

But the class’ most important lesson was self-sufficiency, according to its organizer, who said instructors left the mini-motorists on their own when it came to designing and manufacturing their speed machines.

“They come out with so much self-esteem, because they made something so beautiful, and they made it themselves,” said Monika Wuhrer, owner of Open Space Gallery.

The 45 cars that competed this year were judged in four categories — speed, design, engineering, and creativity — by a panel that included City Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Windsor Terrace).

And winning drivers received kid-made trophies that, much like the cars, were basically just a bunch of stuff glued together, according to Wuhrer.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:55 pm, July 9, 2018
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