I’m all about making lemonade out of lemons, and that’s pretty much what the organisers of Red Bull Frozen Rush had to do this year.
For the past three years Red Bull has hosted this one-off race in the state of Maine at a ski resort; basically creating an off-road short course track on the side of a mountain ski slope. The drivers are hand-picked, and given that Frozen Rush has become such a major event in terms of bragging rights for the rest of the season, those selected to compete take it very seriously.
In years past it’s snowed heavily and temperatures have been very low. In other words, they’ve been the perfect conditions for an ice race.
That wasn’t the case this year though, and during the lead up to the event it was far warmer than anyone expected it to be.
In fact, while I was in Maine for the race, I was wearing a t-shirt in the day because the sun was out for most of the action.
About three weeks before the race the mountain was still bare – hardly an ideal situation.
Then all of a sudden the conditions worked in the organiser’s favor; a few feet of snow fell and the mercury dropped.
Which of course allowed the Sunday River ski resort to pump millions upon millions of gallons of water onto the slopes to produce snow the man-made way.
With the intense effort that the crew put in around the clock, the course was completed just in time for the third ever Red Bull Frozen Rush.Course Walk
For the morning of qualifying I snuck onto the course to walk with the drivers and listen in on what they were talking about.
Due to the nature of the track and the hardly ideal conditions, each driver only had one sighting lap before qualifying. So this course walk was essentially their practice.
Father and son duo Johnny and CJ Greaves are two of the winningest short course drivers in the history of the motorsport. CJ is the only driver to ever win both Torc Pro2 and Pro4 championships in the same season.
Johnny was one of the few drivers at Frozen Rush to run a manual transmission in his Toyota Pro4 truck, so I was interested to see how differently it performed compared to all the automatics.
Rob MacCachren is pretty much the most bad-ass off-road racer there is right now. With back-to-back Baja 1000 wins recently under his belt, he is a living legend.
It was interesting to see what Rob noticed as he walked the course, because you know for a fact that he is seeing things that you or I could never see.
While the surface of the course was hard packed and groomed, at some points it was very thin. There was only so much snow to make a good base, which is why on parts of the track you could see through to the ground below.
The issue that the drivers ultimately ran into was a course that got more dug in during qualifying, meaning it would become slower and slower as the day went on.
Another young prodigy in off-road racing is RJ Anderson of XP1K fame. If you haven’t already seen his latest video, you should check it out here.
What he does with a UTV is just out of this world, and it’s awesome to see him behind the wheel of a Pro4 truck.
I just wish we could have more young guns like RJ and CJ in every form of racing. These guys will keep car culture alive and well for generations to come.
Also competing was last year’s Red Bull Frozen Rush champ, Bryce Menzies. I’ve followed him during races like the Mint 400 and when he was competing in Global Rallycross, but up until this event I hadn’t had a chance to shoot him on a short course.
Without a doubt, Bryce was going to be the one to beat; for some reason he just feels so at home on the snow and ice.
The Red Bull Frozen Rush class of 2016 – nine of the greatest short course drivers ever to pilot trophy trucks.Studded
So what about the trucks themselves? Well, as I mentioned before, they are Pro4 short course trucks with V8 engines that produce around 800 to 900 horsepower.
A few of the trucks are 5-speed manual, but the majority of them run 3-speed automatics.
After just one lap of the course, ice and snow builds up in every nook and cranny.
Because of the conditions and the short nature of the races, the shocks never really have a chance to come up to operating temperature. Although I did not see it for myself, I heard that some teams were warming dampers up before the heats using electric blankets.
As for the tires, they were specially modified off-road BFGoodrichs fitted with around 700 carbide studs.
Each tire had to be shipped to Sweden where they were drilled and had their bits glued in by hand.
Taking into account spare sets, can you imagine how many tires had to be made for nine cars! That is quite a few studs…
It’s so crazy to me to think how much money is spent on an event that’s over so quickly.
Aside from single practise and qualifying laps, if you were knocked out right away you would only drive a total of six laps in the event.
I almost wish there would either be more cars or a longer race course. Then again, all that would add to the time and effort it takes to keep things running smoothly.
While the racing was not exactly wheel-to-wheel, the action was still there. There was one corner on the course where the competitors could potentially meet if they were evenly matched.
The really tricky thing about racing in the snow and ice is that even when there are just two competitors on the track at once, the driver in the back can very quickly face compete white-out conditions.
At the end of the day, Bryce Menzies won the even like it was a cakewalk. Was there ever a doubt that the Red Bull driver was not going to win?
All kidding aside, I was very happy for Bryce and his team. Congratulations on back-to-back Red Bull Frozen Rush titles.
With the popularity of this event and the packed stands, it makes me wonder how far this concept could really go. I would love to see more of this kind of racing all over North America.
In essence, that is the best way to make lemonade out of lemons. Generally speaking, most professional race series stop during the winter, but why not have an event in the snow every year? Even if it was just a one-off race… I guess that is why the organisers of Red Bull Frozen Rush created the event in the first place, and boy I’m glad they did.
Thanks to Matt Martelli and Mad Media for the invite, and thanks to BFGoodrich for the hospitality. You can check out the full TV episode of the event below.