Doonies 3: Through My Lens

A few years back, I had the pleasure of being part of the dream team that was Speedhunters at Gatebil. We had all of our drift athletes at one track, as well as most of our photographers, minus Dino of course since we always forget about him. There was nothing planned out really, but we watched magic happen when Fredric Aasbø, Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Mad Mike Whiddett free-styled on the track like there was no tomorrow, hence making probably one of my favorite stories to date. Here’s a video of what happened.

The Doonies series for Monster Energy is essentially the same thing; the company gathers as many of its motorsport athletes as possible with sole purpose of letting them shred all day in the dunes with a massive film and photo crew.


This year was no different, with a few new faces added to the shred-fest, including Liam Doran, who for the first time brought a rallycross machine out to the Glamis Dunes in California.


Also new to the series were the real-deal monster trucks. More on these beasts later.


In addition to the new players in the game, the snowmobiles were brought back out for some sand action.


And it wouldn’t be a Doonies video without some two-wheeled fun.


There were more riders than ever before, and they all really pushed their boundaries.


It’s funny that these two monster trucks don’t actually look out of place, however they look more like scale R/C trucks than anything else. I can assure you they were very real, and insanely large.


Doonies is the brainchild of Ash Hodges, who is also the creator of Dirt Shark.

Day In The Life

With this post, I want to give you guys a little insight into a typical day filming Doonies. For this project I teamed up with Tempt Media and Icon Helicopters, just as I had for the Baja 1000. Dave Vernick was behind the sticks and Eric Everly was at the controls of the Shotover camera, which captured the majority of footage you see in the final edit.


One of the few scripted scenes of the video featured an abandoned fuel station.

Liam Doran ripped into the station with his 1.6-liter Citroën rallycross car, unrestricted and pushing over 800hp. He doesn’t know exactly how much power it’s putting down because it was spinning all four on the dyno.

There’s nothing like hearing a rallycross car launch off the line with no restrictor.


That’s probably the face that I made the first time I saw such a sight.


As soon as Liam left we lifted off and gave chase. The full speed transition from sand to tarmac made for an awesome sight.


With a relatively short run up, Liam said he hit this train crossing at around 130mph (209km/h).


He hit 180mph (290km/h) before running out of gearing on the straightaway.

The nice thing about having the main road through Glamis closed is that we could refuel anywhere we wanted, which included landing right in the middle of the highway.


The next shot was to follow Kurt Busch doing a full speed run down the road.

Kurt said he had always wanted to go flat out in a real NASCAR on public roads, but had never previously had the chance.


What is scary to me is that this thing was still setup for left turns. He did a few donuts to warm up the tires, and then he was off.


I’ll never forget it – we were maxed out 130mph (209km/h) ground speed in the helicopter, when Kurt passed us by very casually.


The road was not actually perfectly straight – as you can clearly see in this photo – and was very dusty, but Kurt still topped out at 185mph (298mph).


The coolest part for us was that when we were actually following behind him we could feel his draft in the helicopter, which felt like we were hitting turbulence. It’s amazing to me how much air these things move when at speed.


Next up was a shot that incorporated the rest of the crew rolling out at the same time.


Liam and the Harley guys were already waiting on the road, so I figured I would shoot from the ground for a few of these shots.

We landed the bird and I jumped out.


Trying to get everyone in one shot was like herding squirrels, but we managed to get it in one take.


The fun part for me were the freestyle sessions – especially when the motorcycle guys were going for it. They would get into the groove and keep hitting awesome jumps.

Because we were shooting in the dead of winter, the days were unfortunately super short.


If you guys are wondering how the production crew as well as photographers got around, we pretty much bummed rides whenever we could.

Lucky for me there was always an open seat in Casey Currie’s awesome King of The Hammers rig.


Most of the other crew rode in sand rails and whatever other UTVs were available.

The Monster Energy girls on the other hand had the luxury of getting shuttled around in a Toyota Tundra driven by BJ Baldwin. Lucky guy.


I talked to Damon Bradshaw and Coty Saucier – the drivers of the monster trucks – and they told me that they’ve never had so much seat time behind the wheels of these nitro beasts.


The reason being of course they are so expensive to run. They go through engines much faster, plus they were never meant to run for such long periods of time.


It was a constant worry that their engines would overheat, so Damon and Coty took turns; while one would cool down the other would go out and thrash.


It was also crazy to see how much they would bounce after they landed a huge jump. There was always someone standing by with a remote kill switch, just in case the truck went out of control.


I found it amazing how quick they were and how much sand they moved just making a turn.

The evenings were absolutely breathtaking; there is nothing like the desert sunsets.

Final Day

The last day of filming is always the most fun as the athletes go all-out. If something breaks now, it’s no big deal.


We headed out to one of the largest jumps in the area and the four-wheel guys went for it.


I was really surprised at how well Liam’s rallycross car handled the dunes. It looked like a blast to drive for sure, but I don’t want to think about the clean up afterwards. There was so much sand in the cockpit.


Every year it’s a question of who’s going to go really big in terms of the jumps, and young Ultra4 driver Wayland Campbell absolutely sent it in his rock-crawling buggy.


How something so heavy can fly so far is amazing to me.


As always, Rodrigo Ampudia did not hold back in his Pro2 short course truck. I love it when there’s sand still bleeding from the bottom of a truck as it’s flying through the air.


The last session of the day was dedicated to the snowmobiles.


The light was perfect, so I guess you could say I went a little overboard with the shots.


In the space of a year, the snowmobiles used in Doonies have evolved to run custom radiators with electric fans.

Normally the snow and freezing temperatures would keep them cool enough, but because they are riding in sand they need some help to keep temps in check.


Of course, not everyone got away unscathed; a few snowmobiles overheated quickly.


But compared to last year it was crazy how much more run time they had, which allowed the snowmobile riders to pull off some impressive tricks.


That’s it for my Doonies 3 behind the scenes coverage, but if you have any questions just ask them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer you guys.

Larry Chen
Instagram: larry_chen_foto



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Here's the link to the video.


Amazing stuff as always Larry!


Been waiting for this blog as soon as I saw the video drop, needless to say it hasn't disappointed! Some stunning shots, especially love the first snowmobile picture (the fourth shot in the blog). 
PS: Pretty sure that Liam's DS3 is a 2.0L, not a 1.6L.


tbtstt WorldRX Supercars can be either 1.6 or 2.0


god damn, 800hp from a 1.6? there's gotta be some crazy tuning involved to make that much power from such a small engine, or am i overthinking it and it's just a big turbo creating that power? 

also larry, thumbs up for the hoonigan shirt. :D


Looks like a fun time. 
We're not gonna see an uptick in monster truck features on SH though are we?


how much did this cost production wise? I think I'm working for the wrong company!


Too bad I have zero respect for Doran


johnbezt I wish I had time to feature the monster trucks. They are pretty cool.


ksmith32 I don't even want to think about it. haha.


Dude, great coverage tho. Nothing like having a chopper at your disposal!!


Great images as always Larry. Sadly, the best thing about the film was the blonde with corn rows. The action felt very "the same as usual" to me. Let's hope Doonies 4 does something new and exciting. Cheers.


Here I am again to comment that Larry, you a god. For me the best shot is the mostertruck flying through the air in the dust! Amazing. Thanks again dude!


JordanGrant44 Cornrows, best part. You made my day.


Yeah, won't be watching this at work... Why do they have to fill these vids with half-naked ladies?


Yeah, the regulations permit both Paddy McGrath. The allowed weight reduction for cars running 1.6L engines was removed from the World RX regulations at the start of 2016, so those teams/drivers that were running the smaller engines have switched. JRM were the last World team to run 1.6L engines, LD Motorsport have never run 1.6L in their DS3's, only 2.0L.


MilesHayler Uuuh, is that a real question...??


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MilesHayler Roman64 Oh I get it now, you're just really funny.


Larry Chen every year your shots from Doonies are some of the best you put out (and that's saying something).  Your lead snowmobile shot from last year is still in my desktop rotation.  But damn, those monster trucks, and even the stock car on the road!  Some amazing visuals here.


Do any of the girls ride or are they there just to be there?


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Cool story, wish I could rip around some dunes.
Hate to be that guy, but can we stop saying "a NASCAR"? NASCAR is a sanctioning body, that's like saying "going really fast in an FIA". Stock car or Sprint Cup car would be the proper termanology.


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TylerHorne One of them does. I didn't get many shots of her though.


Steve Hayward Thank you. That shot you mentioned is also one of my favorites. I can't believe that I got that from the helicopter. It was seriously perfect positioning. On top of that I really couldn't believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. Dude is genuinely nuts.