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The monsters are coming

27 October 2014

The monster trucking sensation, Monster Jam is hitting QBE Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore this coming weekend with two shows on Saturday and one show on Sunday, so we caught up with competitor Scott Liddycoat to find out what it’s all about.

NZV8: First off Scott, what can people expect from Monster Jam?

Scott Liddycoat: Full on monster truck action. What we do is we qualify, then race down to the final two, then we have our final race, which will determine the champion of the show. Then we go into an intermission of sorts where we have freestyle motocross. So they’ll be backflipping and doing all their stuff, and also in between everything we have quad wars, which should be the New Zealand team versus the American team on their four wheelers — they’ll be racing while we’re getting our trucks ready. Then after the intermission we’ll go out and freestyle, then the show will be over. All up it’s around two hours of full-on action.

Is it scripted at all, as far as who will win?

Not at all, we’re full on all the time. None of them want the new guys like me to win. But me being new, I want to beat the veterans, so it’s full on for sure. I like to think I can win every time, but it’s not that easy!

So, how did you get into driving monster trucks?

I was lucky enough that I knew a few guys who were doing it, and I asked if they were hiring, and they were, so I got the opportunity to test the truck, and now I’ve been doing it for a year.

Do you come from a competitive driving background before that?

Yeah, I’ve raced hydroplanes my whole life.

How’ve you found the transition?

It’s a little different. With the boats you want to keep those on the water, and with the monster trucks you’re flying everywhere. But I’ve picked it up pretty good. If you’ve got a little racing experience, and experience in the seat, you pick it up pretty quickly.

I think the boat background helps me mentally, as I know what to expect when I go racing. So the mental stuff doesn’t overwhelm me at all, but I don’t think there’s anything else you can race that can compare to a monster truck.

They look big and heavy and cumbersome to drive. Do they drive like a truck? Or a race car?

They’re definitely a truck, they weigh about 10,000 lb, but they’ve got about 1300–1400hp, so they’re still pretty peppy.

They’d be a similar motor to what you had in your boats too?

Yeah, the boats are methanol big block as well, so I was expecting the trucks to be pretty snappy, and they definitely are.

You’ve only been driving for a little while now, what’s been the highlight so far?

Definitely the trip to Australia was the highlight so far, as far as getting to compete overseas. But back home in the States it was getting the chance to compete in the World Finals — that was a big deal. The World Finals are our biggest event, so it’s great to be a part of it.

You say you’re friends with a few of the other drivers. On the track are you still friends, or is it all on?

We’re all buddies when we’re not racing, but on the track we all want to win, so it’s pretty competitive.

The trucks take a hammering, do they break many parts?

Yeah, we can break a lot of stuff, but we’ve got such an awesome crew that we can fix them quickly. When things are going right they last a while, but you can get yourself in a situation where you break parts and mess up bodies and stuff like that, but we’re equipped to handle it. Each truck has two guys assigned to it, but they all work as a group to help each other out the rest of the time.

So the trucks belong to the organization? Or to the individual drivers?

Yeah, they all belong to Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Monster Jam.

Have you ever been to New Zealand before?

No, I haven’t, but I’m looking forward to it. I wish I stayed between the Australian Monster Jam rounds and the New Zealand ones to have a bit more of a look around, but I didn’t. The place looks beautiful. A lot of the other guys stayed, but I’d been gone for four weeks, so headed back.

Back home Monster Jam is so well known that the crowd must all have their favourite drivers?

Yeah, there are definitely some well-known people and we’ve got some trucks that have been around a long time too. Some of them have been around for over 30 years, and others, like the one I drive — The Dragon — are just new, so people are just starting to get used to that one.

It must take a bit of effort to make them fly? How hard do you need to push them into the jumps?

They run a supercharged big-block Chevrolet, with mechanical injection, and make about 1300hp, so the harder you hit it, the higher you go. The jump technology they’ve come up with is awesome. So we can do stuff in a short distance, which is what makes it so entertaining. Back here in the States we’ll do shows in a hockey rink, and shoot them 30 feet in the air, so they’ve got the ramps down pat. The harder you hit the gas, the higher you’ll go.

Have you had any bad experiences as yet?

I’ve crashed it a couple of times, but we try not to. I like to put on the best show I can, and we get sideways a lot, and sometimes it just happens, it’s a monster truck after all.

How much maintenance is involved between each round?

Hopefully, if all goes well there’s minimal, they just check them over,  but it depends what happens. The freestyle session is usually where things get out of hand, but we can fix them fast if we need to.

Out of the ten trucks that we can expect to see here in New Zealand, is there anyone to watch out for in particular?

You’ve always got Grave Digger, which has been around forever, and you’ve got Maximum Destruction, and the Metal Mulisha truck, really there are ten awesome trucks — they’ll all put on a great show.

Is the last show a bigger and better show? Or will they all be the same?

We don’t hold back, so every show is as good as the next, some of our best drivers will be there, and they all want to win.

Great to hear. Thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing you in action this weekend.

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