There’s simply no way to fully describe Red Bull Frozen Rush to those who haven’t experienced it in person. The concept is wild enough—900 horsepower Pro 4 trucks charging through the snow on the slopes of Sunday River in Newry, ME, piloted by the world’s best drivers. It’s an event unlike any other in the increasingly popular world of action motorsports.
And yet, being there is something completely different. Hearing the V8 engines rev with the throttle, seeing the roost kicked up by the studded BF Goodrich tires created especially for this event, feeling the bitter cold as you stand on the mountain for two and a half hours of action—to be a spectator, you almost have to be as crazy as the drivers competing. And the crowd is impressive, especially for New England, where off-road truck racing hasn’t yet gained a foothold.
The drama of last year’s event will be hard to top. The final matchup pitted two of the best drivers on Earth against one another: Ricky Johnson, founder of the TORC Series (among countless other accomplishments in essentially every form of racing, whether two wheels or four), and Johnny Greaves, TORC’s defending Pro 4 champion. It was also a showdown of Ford versus Toyota and Red Bull versus Monster, but for the sport, it was a showdown of Bird versus Magic, The Great One versus Super Mario, Brady versus Manning. Johnson grabbed the victory when race officials awarded a five-second penalty to Greaves for hitting a flag in the course’s slalom section, and thus the driver who pioneered the event with a one-off demonstration at Vermont’s Mount Snow a year prior took its first gold medal.
“How many times do you get to be the first guy to do something?” Johnson said after the race. “More than anything, I’m really honored to be a part of something new. We’re in a society where guys are jumping out of hot air balloons at the edge of space, (and) I’m the first one to win Frozen Rush. Last year I was the first one to drive a Pro 4 down a mountain of snow. I’m ecstatic.”
A year from now, the stage—and even the players—aren’t the same. Greaves is gone, but replacing him are some of the sport’s best: Brian Deegan, whose accomplishments on two wheels and four make him a sort of spiritual successor to Johnson, TORC Series veteran Chad Hord, and RJ Anderson, the up-and-comer whose signature work so far has been the XP1K series of UTV videos.
All three drivers, interestingly enough, come into the event with Pro 2 backgrounds, but that didn’t bother Bryce Menzies last year. Menzies, with a rented truck from fellow competitor Scott Douglas, finished third in last year’s event and enters this week as a favorite to knock teammate Johnson off the top of the pile.
The real challenge, though? Adapting to wheel-to-wheel racing. After the roost proved too much on the snowy course, last year’s event format was a timed affair. The first driver would start his run, and the second driver would leave the line 25 seconds later when the snow settled. Once the lead driver crossed the line, the chase driver had that much time to get to the line or risk being knocked out. This year’s expectation, at least from the course preview video posted a month ago, is for wheel-to-wheel action to prevail.
No matter what we get on Thursday and Friday, the event promises to be a thrill unlike any other in motorsports. Perhaps Johnson sums it up best.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” he declared. “If you get any other kind of driver and (they tell you) that they’re having more fun than I am jumping a hundred feet and going 95 miles an hour down a ski slope, they’re lying.”
Photo credit: Matt Kalish