7 things we learned from Monster Jam in SA

The trucks are all the same

Sharks, Zombies, Bulls. Underneath the trademark Monster Jam bodyshells – which stand around 3.2 metres tall – each truck runs an identical chassis and engine setup built and assembled in the USA. Think of it like platform sharing between production cars,. The engine is a supercharged 540 cubic feet (9.5 litre) V8 which runs on methanol, using about 12 litres of fuel every minute. Total power is 1500hp, but then each truck weighs 5.5 tonnes, giving them a power to weight ratio similar to the new BMW M5. Shocks have 30-inch travel and the tyres are all from BGT, weighing around 300 kilograms each. 

So what can drivers change?

Tyre pressures for one but usually around 0.7bar. And damper rates, typically moving from harder in freestyle to softer in the racing. Some drivers play around with the gearing and front and rear lockers.

It’s a special dirt

As Monster Jam moves around the world, they expect the same consistency from the dirt. Around 3000 cubic metres of dirt is then shaped into the same style jumps used at every event so not only do the drivers know what to expect, but so do the fans.

If you hit a jump wrong…

In most cases because the trucks have so much travel, you don’t need to worry. But take a ramp well off line and you’ll need to improvise by opening the steering into the direction you’re crashing. A dab of the brakes will push the nose down, while accelerating will shift the momentum rearwards. But often it’s a bit of luck how you land.

Fans decide the points

Once you make peace with the unignorable truth that Monster jam is more entertainment than it is motorsport, deciding the fate of each driver via a slider on your smartphone is more fun than you think. There are no professional judges.

Connected to media wifi, ours worked fast every time, but fans inside the stadium weren’t as lucky. You can take 99% of the American show, but you can’t take that 1% of South Africa’s unpredictability.

You don’t need a thick moustache to race

This is a sport for girls and guys. On the Monster Jam circuit there are fourteen women competing and Becky McDonough in El Toro Loco won the final leg at Soccer City.

It nearly sold out FNB Stadium

The largest Monster Jam attendance outside of the USA with 65 000 tickets sold at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg. Even Kyalami on one of their fuller days won’t match that. Once again it proves that traditional motorsport formulas are finding it difficult to connect with the modern generation who want full access, sharp punchy entertainment and wheel-banging stuff for ticket prices as low as R150. It’s why Gymkhana GRiD and Rally X have become so popular.  AL

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