What it is like to drive a monster truck

Straits Times journalist Jean Iau takes a Monster Jam truck for a spin and lives to tell the tale.

Monster Jam drivers, who will be performing their stunts here today, emphasise safety while having fun

In their decade of stunt-driving gigantic motor vehicles, Monster Jam drivers Candice Jolly, Marc McDonald and Jon Zimmer have not been injured in an accident.

Jolly, 36, has had her truck land on its roof after completing a stunt, but she "managed to get back on the wheels, finish her freestyle and almost won the whole show.

"I wasn't scared or anything. I was just trying to figure out where we were on the floor and when the truck came back over on the side, I gassed it a little bit just to save it."

She and the other drivers are here for the first Monster Jam Singapore held at the National Stadium today. It is a show featuring motor-vehicle stunts.

Each of the 10 Monster Jam trucks in the show measures about 3.2m tall, 3.7m wide, 5.2m long and weighs at least 2,000kg.

The drivers will use the vehicles to execute jumps, doughnuts (where the truck spins in circles) and flip-overs, with the roof of the car on the ground and wheels in the air.

Yang Ewan, five, checks out the El Toro Loco monster truck driven by Marc McDonald at the media preview.
Yang Ewan, five, checks out the El Toro Loco monster truck driven by Marc McDonald at the media preview. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

  • BOOK IT / MONSTER JAM SINGAPORE

  • WHERE: National Stadium, 1 Stadium Drive

    WHEN: Today, 2 to 6pm (Pit Party), 7 to 9pm (main event)

    ADMISSION: $25 to $120 (adults), $30 to $70 (children aged two to 12). Go to www.sportshubtix.com.sg

    INFO: www.monsterjam.com

McDonald, 39, who drives the El Toro Loco that resembles an orange raging bull, explains that while he feels the adrenaline, he never gets scared when he performs.

He tells The Straits Times: "I've always been around off-road stuff so I just want to have fun. I'm like a 12-year-old kid out there driving around, it's so cool."

Safety is a top priority, say the drivers. They are securely strapped into special metal seats and wear devices that support their heads and necks, fireproof suits, helmets, neck braces and gloves.

There will be two events for Monster Jam: At the sold-out pre-show Pit Party, fans can walk on the dirt, meet the drivers, get autographs and an up-close look at the Monster Jam trucks without climbing inside. The main event in the evening is where the drivers will race and compete in freestyle competitions.

The event promises to be fun for people of all ages and especially so for children, says Zimmer.

The 39-year-old, who drives the Grave Digger - a neon green and black truck with skulls, flames and graves on it - is speaking from experience.

He says he will never forget the first time he saw the Grave Digger as a nine-year-old.

"There was something about seeing the Grave Digger and Dennis Anderson (who came up with the concept for the truck in 1981) and how he reacted with the fans that always stuck with me.

"I worked as a mechanic and one day got a shot to drive one and I haven't looked back since. It's a dream come true."

It is easy to understand his enthusiasm when one is inside one of the Monster trucks, as this reporter found out.

There is a blind spot of about 4m right in front of the truck, but it is a lot easier to drive the vehicle than expected: flip a switch for the ignition, put the truck into drive and it operates like an automatic car - just two pedals, one for accelerating and another for the brakes.

As for spectators, the drivers all agree that families will be in for a treat.

McDonald says: "(Looking at this track) I can see some big air jumps, some combination jumps... You're gonna see a bit of everything. You won't be needing your seat much, you'll be on the edge of it throughout the show."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Monster mania'. Print Edition | Subscribe