Joburg goes gaga over Monster Jam spectacle

Hollywood actor-turned-President, Ronald Reagan once intimated back in the 80’s!

From the Harlem Globetrotters travelling basketball showpiece to the Nitro Circus fronted by X-Games daredevil, Travis Pastrana, the citizens swearing allegiance to the Star-spangled banner (why, even the stars-and-stripes flag have a razzmatazzy appearance) sure long figured out the exportation of entertainment as an economic dollar puller!

And so it was that one of Planet Earth foremost economic power’s export, the quarter century young Monster Jam rolled into the African continent’s most prosperous city, Johannesburg for essentially the circus’ first-ever South African visit – and a mere week ahead of its World Finals XX in Orlando, Florida.

That following on dates at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium (20 April) and the Cape Town Stadium (27 April).

Hyped as a family entertainment experience, Monster Jam – which appeals to both young and adult – has been seen by some 19.2 million spectators on five different continents, according to media release.

Fan subscription to the Nasrec venue must had made the organizers content since it ensured the largest audience to ever attend an international Monster Jam event, outside of the United States! A crowd of more than 60 000 voted with their tickets to the thrills show!

Around a holding area on the verges of the calabash-styled arena just after a late afternoon Friday practice session, the drivers could hardly contain their excitement and delight at the confirmed figures for Saturday’s main event. 

One of the eight drivers, Cleveland native and currently Orlando resident, Bari Musawwir – the only Black driver on the jam’s roster – offered giggling to this author putting it to him that some of the antics the trucks are capable of are reminiscent of break-dance: “you have to get into the rhythm to drive these trucks, if not, they’ll drive you!

Traditionally commencing with its hugely popular (Pit Party) where well before the show fans get to interact in a rendezvous with the various Monster Jam teams’ drivers by having their pictures taken with the trucks and have autographs signed – a two to two-and-a-half (intermission included) spectacle where monster trucks face off in three segments of competition, follows. 

With those being, side-by-side racing: traditional bracket racing, where the first truck with the least amount of penalties crossing the finish line, is declared the winner.  Thereafter, two-wheel competition: where drivers are given time to show-off their best two-wheel moves – with each driver getting two attempts.  The zenith is offered by the freestyle competition: which allows drivers limited time on the open floor to show-off their skills.  Pending this category, fans become the ones responsible for the point-scoring.

On the evening, Becky McDonough (one of two female drivers competing) of El Toro Loco was adjudged the overall event championship.  In her acceptance speech, the lass behind the crazy bull thanked the Johannesburg crowd for filling up most of the seats.

Mainly a football venue home to local soccer giants, Kaizer Chiefs, it came as a shock to one of the sports photographers to witness the stadium resembling a construction site reminiscent of the period it was being prepared for the FIFA World Cup of some eight years ago. 

The site of the roaring vehicular star attractions, Caterpillar loaders which periodically moved onto the dirt field to restore overturned trucks back on all-fours, and a water tanker truck which watered the surface just before a ‘donut’ contest – was accentuated by technical hands, as well as the media corps, adorned in reflective jackets!

Each of the contesting trucks performed to preferred soundtracks, with Musawwir’s Zombie (some spectacle per se – what with outstretched arms protruding from either side of his vehicle) every time taking to the thrills-and-spills terrain to the accompaniment of Michael Jackson’s Thriller! 

Charles Pauken’s Grave Digger – having disappointed in the initial sections of competition through a combination of toppling over and a suspected transmission stall – got the loudest approval of the event by performing two backflips to make up for lost points in the other contests.

The following, gleaned from an event-related website and geared towards familiarisation with the sport, are some naturally curious queries and answers regarding the event:

What do they do at Monster Jam?

Monster Jam is a live sporting event competition featuring seven (8 for the three-city South African tour) monster trucks. It showcases the trucks’ abilities to crush cars, fly through the air, and spin.

Is Monster Jam a real competition?

Monster Jam competition is divided into two categories: traditional head-to-head racing and the freestyle competition, where drivers hammer out 2 minutes of jumps and are awarded a score by the judges. … Monster trucks are, after all, just a sideshow as far as traditional racing fans are concerned.

How long does Monster Jam last?

Events usually last between two to two and a half hour long including intermission.

How much does a monster truck cost?

A monster truck must weigh a minimum of 9,000 pounds, with some monster trucks weighing as much as 12,500 pounds. The less the body weighs, the more strength and weight can be put into the frame and engine without sacrificing speed and manoeuvrability.

Average cost: $150,000 per truck.

How much do Monster Jam truck drivers make?

On average, Monster Truck drivers make somewhere between $25,000 and $50,000a year. This is if you are on active duty, however. The amount earned depends on multiple factors, including experience of the driver, the team or company they are a part of, and the industry itself.

Who did the first monster truck backflip?

This started the monster truck backflip idea.  In 2008, Travis Pastrana and Nitro Circus attempted the very first standard Monster Truck Backflip, but ended with a crash. In 2009, Tom Meents landed the very first backflip in his backyard.

In addition, these Monster Facts were supplied:

  • Standing 4 metres tall and 4 metres wide, the custom designed Monster Jam trucks weigh up to 4,500kg
  • A Monster Jam truck engine burns up to 9.5 litres of methanol per run
  • Each engine delivers about 1,500 horsepower
  • A Monster Jam truck is capable of reaching speeds of up to 100kms per hour
  • Monster Jam trucks can jump as far as 130 feet in length
  • Chassis – Custom Steel minimum of 8 points that attached to main chassis
  • Body – Fiberglass Composite with Lexan Windshield
  • Fuel Capacity – 83 Litre Fuel Cell
  • Fuel Type – 99.9% Methanol (Alcohol)
  • Fuel Economy – 17 Litres per Kilometre
  • Some custom designed trucks require more than 40 hours of paint time
  • Carving one Monster Jam truck tyre requires over 50 hours of exacting labour
  • The average Monster Jam truck team will go through eight tyres in one year
  • Tyres are 1.7m high by 1.1 wide
  • It takes 1,500 man hours to build and remove a track
  • 300 truckloads of dirt are used to build the track
  • 113 litres of paint are used to paint the tracks and obstacles
  • It takes up to 12 hours to build an arena Monster Jam track and up to 20 hours to build a stadium track.

Image Jacob MAWELA (One of the Monster Jam trucks conducting airborne performance that ignited fans into frenzy at FNB Stadium, SA- Sat 4 May 2019).

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