We catch up with champion off-road Racer Ricky Johnson to talk about taking his Pro 4 truck up the sloops of a ski resort for Red Bull Frozen Rush, getting his truck setup for the snow and the fact he doesn't know how to put chains on his own car.
RedBullUSA.com: Red Bull Frozen Rush… What’s it all about?
Ricky Johnson: Ha! What exactly are we doing? Or, why are we doing it? You’ll need to specify.
RedBullUSA.com: Both… Okay, let’s start with what exactly are we doing?
Ricky Johnson: Well, in a nutshell, we are going to race a Pro 4 truck up a Vermont ski resort in the middle of February. We’ve taken over a couple of Mount Snow’s premier trails on their main mountain face and created a figure eight track with jumps and berms.
The goal is to put on a hell-of-a-show and show that off-road racing isn’t just for the warmer months, but first we need to make sure we can actually do it. We had some custom BF Goodrich tires made for the project, which we tested a few weeks ago in Sierra-At-Tahoe resort in California. Turned out, it was a lot more challenging than I anticipated.
Though we got off to a rocky start, after some fine tuning, we feel pretty good about it now… at least, the ability to drive in the snow with our tires. But that being said, the snow conditions at Mount Snow in addition to the course, the jumps and the overall terrain… will be different from what we tested so it’s still a huge roll of the dice. Fingers crossed.
RedBullUSA.com: Why are you doing this? And why would you even want to?
Ricky Johnson: I’ve been a skier for years, and also a big fan of winter rally racing. I’d often watch races and wonder if it were possible to do that on the ski slopes. Obviously, the depth of the snow and the incline of the ski slope completely change the game. But then again, off-road racing is possible in the southwestern sand dunes, so could it really be that much different? So I started looking into it and discovered it had never been attempted. In fact, from the best of my knowledge, a Pro 4 truck had never even been on snow, let alone raced up a ski resort. So the challenge presented itself, so I was on a mission to see if it was possible.
RedBullUSA.com: You’re a living legend of off-road motorsports, but also a resident of Southern California. Have you ever even driven in the snow?
Ricky Johnson: Hahaha… Yeah, a couple of times… But let’s just say not very well.
RedBullUSA.com: Is it true you got stuck in a snowstorm on your way to the tire testing in Tahoe a few weeks ago and didn’t know how to put chains on your car?
Ricky Johnson: (Laughs again) Thank God the Menzies crew was there or I never would have made it!
RedBullUSA.com: So February 15 is just a few days away. What do you think is the biggest challenge you will face during Red Bull Frozen Rush?
Ricky Johnson: Weather and snow conditions. The special BFG’s we had made for the project have .5-inch ice spikes on them to provide additional traction. We can adjust the tire pressure as well, to spread out the footprint of the tire and decrease the (truck’s) pressure on the snow. This allows us to “float” more if the snow is soft.
The cold temperatures will be harsh on the truck. The engine on this thing hates the cold. Probably a good reason why no one has tried this before. We need to use heating blankets to warm the oil tank and transmission for an hour just to get her started. The shocks will be rigid and less responsive too.
All of these things will be challenges we’ll face and will have to deal with throughout the day, but I’m confident we can overcome them. Beyond that, my biggest fear is a section of the course called “Yard Sale”. It’s a black diamond expert trail with a sustained 30 degree slope and a slight double fall line. To be honest, I’m having doubts about it.
RedBullUSA.com: 900 Horsepower, 18 to 20 inches of wheel travel, 4 wheel drive, custom .5-inch spiked tires and a one-of-a-kind snow-covered track, what more could you ask for?
Ricky Johnson: If you’re in the northeast on February 15, get yourself to Mount Snow. This is going to be a dream come true for me and a hell of a good time for you. If you can’t make it, be sure to check it out online at RedBullusa.com afterwards. It’s going to be awesome. Can’t wait!
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