AutoMatters & More: Matthew Brabham & Stadium SUPER Trucks at the Grand Prix of Long Beach

Stadium SUPER Trucks ( combine the competition of racing with auto thrill shows, where daring stunt drivers jump over cars and through a wall of fire, and drive long distances up on two side tires. Only the jumping through fire is missing. As series driver Matthew Brabham says, “it’s like a combination between motocross, car racing and monster trucks, all kind of mixed into one.”

Brabham won one of the two races in Long Beach, and took overall honors for the weekend. He has raced open-wheeled cars most of his life, racing Formula Fords in Australia, U.S. F2000 and Pro Mazda, Indy Lights, Formula E and the Indy 500.

In Long Beach Matthew raced the blue and white Safecraft Safety Equipment Stadium SUPER Truck. Its number – 83 – was the same number as the red, white and blue Nissan GTP IMSA prototype that I watched his famous father – Geoff Brabham – racing many decades earlier in Del Mar.

Clawing through the turns
Clawing through the turns (Jan Wagner / )

The trucks are pretty much equal. “We have a rule where if you want to swap with someone’s truck you can swap. That’s happened in the past and there haven’t been any differences.”

“The first time I closed my eyes and puckered a little bit, and I was definitely scared. It was kind of funny the first time I ever drove a truck. Robby called – like five minutes before a session – and said ‘we’ve got a spare truck and we need someone in it. Can you drive it this weekend?’ I said yes, but by the time I got all suited up and in my truck I had no time to talk to anyone about how to go over the jumps, so the whole first session I didn’t hit any jumps ... and then I hit the jumps on the last lap. I was okay, I made it over, but I was very slow. It was just wild.”

Coming together in the hairpin
Coming together in the hairpin (Jan Wagner / )

“Once I got used to it, it was okay. It’s almost like another corner. I don’t lift at all now. The good guys, we hit it flat – no lift, nothing. You just try to keep the steering wheel as straight as possible right before you hit it, and then as soon as you hit the ramp you get off the throttle and you kind of coast. If you start going nose up, then you can hit the brake and put the nose down and control it like a motorbike. Once you get used to it then you can kind of control yourself in the air, but the first couple of races are all a bit out of control, so it’s definitely scary.”

I asked if this is sort of like wrestling, where it’s sort of predetermined what’s going to happen? Matthew laughed as he said: “Absolutely not! No way! There is no way you could choreograph a race with a bunch of racecar drivers. That’s impossible.”

Robby Gordon faces off in his Speed Energy Stadium Super Truck with Jim Michaelian, President & CEO, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Robby Gordon faces off in his Speed Energy Stadium Super Truck with Jim Michaelian, President & CEO, Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Jan Wagner / )

“There are no rules in Stadium SUPER Trucks. That’s what made it so fun for me. There’s certain things you can and cannot do in ‘proper’ professional racing. In SUPER Trucks the only rule for contact is no front-to-rear contact, so you can’t just not brake and completely take someone out from the rear, but if you get door-to-door contact, that’s okay.”

This go for broke attitude is part of what fans come to see, and is an essential part of what Stadium SUPER Truck racing is all about. All that is missing is the winning truck jumping through a wall of fire to celebrate, like in those auto thrill shows. Perhaps someday…

Matthew Brabham celebrates his victory
Matthew Brabham celebrates his victory (Jan Wagner / )

“SUPER Trucks ... is one of the coolest racing series I have ever been a part of. Driving and excitement level and fun is definitely the most I’ve ever had in a car, and the racing is pretty cool too.”

Matthew hopes to return to Indy. “It’s mayhem before the race. You don’t sleep, eat – you have no time to yourself. All you do is media and race and drive, so it’s definitely crazy. It’s just such a cool event, with so many people. It’s one of those things you can never describe truly what it feels like until you actually do it yourself, while you’re there on the grid. Ultimately my number one goal is to win the 500. I want to get back into IndyCar and what I’m working towards is that.”

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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #485