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Bull Rush

Red Bull Frozen Rush seeks to dominate racing on the mountain.

Red Bull Frozen Rush

The dichotomy of the Red Bull Frozen Rush doesn’t just begin with the fact that these 900-horsepower trucks relinquish their reign on dirt and trade it for snow. On any given day during a typical ski season, Sunday River resort in Newry, Maine, is a quiet, tranquil place offering many solitude from the commotion of daily life. Red Bull changed all that when they introduced Frozen Rush: a melee of burly trucks tearing up a ski slope like overeager polar bears hunting for a kill.


Under cover of darkness among the unforgiving Sierra Nevada Mountains in January of 2013, Red Bull Frozen Rush was born in secret. Starting with preliminary tests with off-roading legend Ricky Johnson to establish the realistic expectations of an event like this, R.J. floored the massive 900-horsepower truck only to find the snow acted like quicksand once full throttle was applied 50 feet from the hauler.


Two feet of snow and ice surrounded the massive 35-inch tires, and it wasn’t until alloy spikes were introduced to the massive off-road rubber that the truck got the grip it required. Frozen Rush was born to shred the slopes.

Under-The-Skin Under-The-Skin Under-The-Skin Under-The-Skin Under-The-Skin



Technically, the Pro 4s are based off of production trucks; however, the modified and highly developed chassis are about as far away from stock truck as skiers who were expecting peace on the mountain during race week. Starting as a blank canvas, they use either 4130 chromoly or ASTM 1018/1026 CDS/DOM round tubing, building from the ground up and following rules set by sanctioning bodies.


Every truck uses a V8 engine block based on an OEM design, which must be made from steel or aluminum, though most run aluminum blocks and heads to save weight, with Holley 4-barrel carburetors pushing 650 CFM on top. Running carburetors present unique challenges in trying to find the correct carburetor tuning, because similar to the trucks, the mechanics are out of their element in these conditions as well.


It’s a constant battle between temperature and tuning.


Since metals contract at different rates, and tolerances could become impossibly tight, it’s paramount for the trucks to maintain a certain temperature range. “Heaters keep everything at 100 degrees. Once they dip below 40 [degrees], they have issues, because the aluminum shrinks and the engines won’t turn over,” 21-year-old rookie R.J. Anderson admits.


At minus-20 degrees, oil has the consistency of peanut butter, so keeping an eye on internal temperatures is key to providing the engines with the proper care. Rotating a high-performance motor, such as the V8s in Frozen Rush, without the proper lubrication could end in catastrophic results. Industrial heaters are brought in to feed hot air onto not only engine blocks but brakes and suspensions as well. It’s like watching someone on life support being meticulously cared for.

Tread Life Tread Life Tread Life

Tread Life

Custom BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A FR2s—made exclusively for the Frozen Rush race—are fitted with a dense alloy stud (or spike), which BFG lovingly refers to as “unobtanium,” and it’s what gets the power to the ground. Based on their 35x12.5R17 Mud-Terrain T/A KR short-course tires, the FR2s get not only a custom groove pattern for the race but also 684 spikes shot into each tire by hand. Overall, it’s around 25,000 for race week. With tire, wheel and studs attached, each weighs roughly 120 pounds.


“There was so much traction that you were fighting the wheel the whole course,” Frozen Rush winner Bryce Menzies explains.


Listening to drivers explain how they want the track to freeze for grip is like trying to wrap your head around the concept of pushing into a turn when riding a motorcycle. It seems counterintuitive, but once you grasp the science, it makes perfect sense. Ice climbers use crampons and ice axes to scale a mountain; the drivers in Frozen Rush essentially do the same.


With the tremendous grip provided by the spikes comes the downfall that you can’t plan for: During braking, the tires tend to build up snow and push with snowpack, which means releasing the throttle to shake off the buildup. It’s a complicated mix of wants versus needs versus performance—not to mention fast lap times—all of which are happening in the blink of an eye. On a ski resort, mind you.

Rubbin's Racin' Rubbin's Racin' Rubbin's Racin' Rubbin's Racin' Rubbin's Racin' Rubbin's Racin'

Rubbin's Racin'

Door-to-door racing has changed the dynamic of Frozen Rush.


Like NASCAR on steroids, these 4,000-pound goliaths jump 75 feet at 90 miles per hour, race wheel to wheel, and kick up snow in a whirlwind similar to watching the Road Runner escape Wile E. Coyote in comical fashion.


The first competitive event was run in a time-trial format, but altered to offer more action and excitement. Door-to-door racing ensures there’s no lack of entertainment. It’s mano a mano on the snowpack.


“It’s pretty cool that at this stage in your career, you can find something that actually scares you. We’re dealing with the unknown,” confesses multiple Baja 1000 winner Ricky Johnson. “What we don’t do is race downhill, so when you make a mistake, it’s multiplied.”


With a bracket system, every race was different due to track conditions, so they had to adapt and survive. While early racing in the competition was grippy because of the ice, once the track got chewed up, it became unpredictable.

The Course The Course The Course The Course The Course

The Course

“With six laps, the course deteriorated so quickly that you could make a mistake so [fast],” says Bryce Menzies. “I raced six laps, and I felt like I raced the Baja 1000, it took so much energy out of me.”


Besides the subzero temps, the condition of the 1.5-mile track is what makes the racing so much different than these drivers are used to. With over 200 races in both desert and arena racing, veteran racer Rob MacCachren, who is competing to win his first race on snow, commented that “once the track becomes torn up, it creates ruts and gets rough, similar to desert racing.” When that happens, they can’t see the snow changes or track dynamics, much like a pilot can’t see turbulence. Open cockpits present the challenge of actually being able to see in a motorized bomb with a little less than 1,000 horsepower when the white stuff is filling every crevice like white noise on a TV.

The Pits The Pits The Pits The Pits The Pits The Pits The Pits

The Pits

One of the great bonuses about Frozen Rush is the open pits. Some racing series have a highfalutin mentality, and unfortunately, it trickles down to the fans when they’d like to see a bit behind the scenes. Luckily, with open access to pits, there was a reason to brave the cold once the racing was over.


Exposed panels on racecars, trucks, boats and the like is similar to stepping into the locker room of the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleading squad. There’s nothing to hide and you see the true ingenuity of it all.

Future Proof Future Proof Future Proof Future Proof Future Proof

Future Proof

Red Bull’s Signature Series is a yearlong binge of amazing content featuring motorcycles, snowboarders, surfers, bikers and, of course, motorsport. But where does that leave Frozen Rush?


“Each year has been a learning and development process—we’re still trying out new things,” acknowledges Peter Brinkerhoff, Frozen Rush’s event coordinator. “We won’t really know where we’re going with it until we take some time, look at [what we’ve] learned and look at what we can do better. There are lots of challenges still involved. I would love to see it become a series.”


Could we see these definitively American trucks run in the Alps alongside the chalets? Definitely, and the sports world would be a better place for it. When was the last time you went to a ski mountain and stood in minus-20 degree weather to not go down the slopes?


The fans want more action, and they hope it expands to more than one event. For now we’re going to have to simply look forward to more, because once a year is a long time but fully worth the wait.

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