x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Crash, bang, wallop: Abu Dhabi prepares for Monster Jam

The Monster boys are driving into town on a wrecking spree – and they will not allow any obstacle to delay their four-and-half tonne trucks.

Monster Jam's first performance in the Middle East will take place at the football pitch at Zayed Sports City this weekend. Courtesy Feld Motor Sports
Monster Jam's first performance in the Middle East will take place at the football pitch at Zayed Sports City this weekend. Courtesy Feld Motor Sports

ABU DHABI // The football pitch at Zayed Sports City Stadium will today be transformed into a battleground for 10 trucks hoping to speed, jump and smash their way to glory at tomorrow’s Monster Jam.

Last night, 130 workers began covering the pitch with plastic sheeting before laying down a layer of medium-density fibreboard.

Over the wood, a 20-centimetre layer of sand will be spread.

The transformation will require 3,500 cubic metres of dirt, which organisers have spent the past three days sourcing from the building site of a hotel.

“As soon as we start covering the grass, the clock starts ticking as you can’t cover it for long,”said Robert Black, the Monster tour manager.

He has overseen the logistics of flying in 85 staff from 12 countries and shipping the trucks, tyres, spares and quad bikes from the United States to Abu Dhabi.

His main concern for Monster Jam’s first performance in the Middle East is ensuring the dirt is firm enough to handle the weight of the four-and-half tonne trucks.

“The dirt tends to be more sandy here so we’ll have to compact it with water,” he said.

Once the first layer of sand has been laid, the crew will set to work building a track with ramps and old cars sourced from local scrapyards.

“They’re a shell of car and the car has scrap-metal value,” Mr Black said. “After the show, they’ll be returned – flattened.”

In the centre of the track there will be a mound with six ramps on which the monster trucks can perform tricks.

“We got some amazing results in the US – great air and some amazing length and the ability for the driver to turn the truck around and do some more stunts on another ramp,” Mr Black said. “They’ve achieved jumps as high as 10 metres – it looked like he wasn’t coming down.”

Dan Evans, who used to drive the Destroyer but will behind the wheel of Blue Thunder in Abu Dhabi, said driving the trucks was a rush.

In the first half of the event, he and nine other drivers will race around the track for the fastest time. Then they will be paired up side by side to race against each other in the knockout series.

The second part of the show is the freestyle event. Drivers have two minutes to enthral the crowd and the judges with their stunt driving.

“The judges want to see momentum and see the truck constantly moving and coming off one obstacle and immediately hitting another. Creativity is huge with the judges.

“The reaction of the fans becomes a big factor for the judges, too,” Evans said.

While most professional drivers are judged on their ability to avoid hitting any obstacles, the Monster Jam drivers aim for the cars.

“We hit everything on the floor and use all the time on the clock,” he said. “It’s important not to wreck the truck halfway through, you’ll be deducted points. It’s all about momentum, creativity and filling the clock and that will get the crowd behind you.”

While strapped into his custom-made seat with a five-point harness, Evans hopes to perform his signature move – smashing obstacles in reverse.

“I’ll have the belts so tight I can hardly breathe. Only after the first few hits you fit the seat better. With the violence of landing after 30 feet in the air, you want to be in as tight as possible,” he said. “The adrenalin combined with anticipation and the lack of breathing ... it’s a hard feeling to describe.”

Mr Black said he had already started sourcing unusual props for when Monster Jam returns to the UAE next year. “We are hoping to have unusual obstacles, like submarines or aeroplanes,” he said.

“The fans will have a level of expectation for next year and we have to keep beating that.”

The Monster Jam pit party begins at 3pm and doors for the show open at 6pm. Tickets are available at www.thinkflash.ae

eharnan@thenational.ae