Red Bull Frozen Rush: My Ride Along

Off-road trucks took over Maine this week, and I got the chance to experience it firsthand.

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

 

While off-road trucking has roots firmly planted on the west coast, the east coast is often not as familiar with what has quickly become one of motorsports’ most rapidly growing sports.  There are a number of various series’, however none focus on the largely untapped market of the east coast.

That is, until Red Bull got a chance to put its own spin on the sport. 

Off to Maine

For the second straight year, the energy drink — turned action sports brand — brought Red Bull Frozen Rush to Sunday River Ski Resort – as part of the Red Bull Signature Series – located in western Maine. 

Frozen Rush is everything great about off-road Pro 4 truck racing, only in frigid, snowy conditions.  With nine of the best drivers in motorsports whipping through a course built on a ski slope, Frozen Rush is a unique twist on the sport – one that, even some of the participants admit, is a whole different animal.

“It’s quite a bit different,” said Scott Douglas, the oldest participant.  “With the snow, you cannot always see the holes, the jumps and the bumps, as well.  So, therefore, it’s like a pilot driving through turbulence.  You’re in a little bit of a controlled chaos the whole time you’re going around.”

After the success the event had last year, it was time to head to Maine’s picturesque and frozen mountains to find out exactly what these trucks were capable of doing.  Once the drivers finished qualifiers – an hour and a half of fuel burning, engine roaring twists and turns – it was time.

There was a slightly smaller truck for our ride – which, perhaps, wasn’t a bad thing.

The Pro 2

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Rather than the Pro 4, it was the Pro 2 truck that would be whipping us around a specially designed course, which closely resembled a figure-eight. 

The differences between this truck and those in the actual event were minimal.  As opposed to four wheel drive, 900-horsepower, 4,000 pound counterpart, Pro 2 trucks are only two wheel drive, push out 700-horsepower and weigh about 3,800 pounds.  The difference didn’t sound like much to us, but to our driver, Luke Johnson – son of motorsports legend and last year’s Frozen Rush champion, Ricky Johnson – it made a noticeable difference.

4 degree temperatures?!

With the temperature dipping to about 4 degrees, it was freezing at the track and with only a small hut containing a space heater, there was no avoiding the elements.  Time was crucial and given the condition, it was only a matter of time before our fingers and toes turned against us.

Like a well-oiled machine, Johnson sped around the course, giving each guest a two-lap joyride on the packed snow – one that often included a little air and a lot of snow.  Climbing in and out of the truck – since there are no doors – was a challenge for each and every novice.  In our minds we all pictured a scene out of Miami Vice or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but with the help of two crew members and a small step stool, in reality it looked like an episode of Golden Girls.  Once firmly planted in the bucket seat, wrapped in a fire-retardant suit, it began.

Johnson started up the engine; the smell of fuel was pleasing, and the roar like a symphony. 

Related: Red Bull Signature Series: Greg Bretz Talks Double Pipe

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As the two of us took off, it was like a rocket ship – a heavy impact, outdone only by the bumpiness of the terrain.  Once the fear of rolling over subsided, I embraced the ride and knew that the loose suspension was normal and my worries were simply brought on by my imagination. 

Johnson had already blazed around the course with 10 others, so by the point it was nothing new – and the same could be said for the snow.  Packed down tight from the special BFGoodrich tires, the snow had become flat, causing the truck to go even faster, allowing for several feet of air.

Somehow I managed to hold onto my GoPro throughout the entire two minute experience:

When we came to a stop, Johnson looked over and smiled, asking me a question that went in one in ear and out the other.  I felt a little disoriented given the speed, sound and sight of what I had just been though, while my face was cold from the wind and snow.  As I wiped the excess moisture away, I was helped out of the harness and back to the ground – a smile from ear to ear.

Going fast is always fun, but doing it in the snow, an element that has long hindered speed, made it that much more impressive.  It really put Red Bull Frozen Rush into perspective.

Ed Miller is a contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @PhillyEdMiller or “like” CraveOnline Sports on Facebook.