Monster Jam. Abu Dhabi, UAE. Clash of the Titans

Monster Jam hits the Middle East for the first time, with Carl Van Horn and Grave Digger making a sizeable impression in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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“Who’s ready for Monster JAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMM?!”

There’s only one answer to that question, especially when it’s being asked at high volume across the tannoy system to tens of thousands of monster truck fans at Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Throw in a regional enthusiasm for all things 4×4 and tuned, and the near-deafening roar the crowd returned said more than words ever could have.

Fresh from an event in Illinois, Chicago, ten of Monster Jam’s most popular trucks and drivers made the 12,000km jaunt from the United States for the series’ first ever competition in the Middle East. Starting off with a bang was important, and the sight of ten 4-tonne trucks – which mere hours earlier had dwarfed families and fans during the pre-event Pit Party – jumping nearly six feet in the air for warm-up hinted that the night was far from over.

Soon though it was down to business in the opening qualifying sessions, the results from which would determine the running order during the evening’s Monster Jam Racing tournament. Pre-event favourite Carl Van Horn in the ghoulishly themed Grave Digger set the tone early on by setting the quickest time, putting him up against Dustin Brown and Monster Mutt Rottweiler in the first heat.

It was a ruff start to proceedings for Rottweiler, electrical problems ending his first run before it had even started. The crowd favourite fared little better during its freestyle run, Brown misjudging his landing and the demon dog playing dead by tipping onto its roof. Unscathed but shaken, it proved a tough evening for man’s best friend.

Things didn’t begin too well either for defending Monster Jam Champion Tom Meents in Maximum-D, mechanical woes leaving question marks over his event full stop. Though Meents would fail to post a time during the Racing tournament, a fiery – quite literally, thanks to several dozen pyros – return at the eleventh hour saw Max-D place second overall in the Freestyle competition. Meents, keen to make the most of the support, later donated his helmet to a young fan during the post-event autograph session.

With two key rivals already side-lined, Grave Digger soon hit its stride, blitzing its way to the final by deposing both Blue Thunder – after a five second time penalty scuppered driver Dan Evan’s chance at overall victory – and Morgan Kane driving Iron Man in the quarter and semi-finals respectively. Having toppled Damon Bradshaw in Monster Energy – which ground to a halt in the semi-final after losing power off the line – and Frank Krmel in Superman, only Chad Fortune and Captain America (a tribute to the comic hero who made his debut in 1941) stood between Van Horn and victory. For Fortune, it was the start to the Abu Dhabi event he had been hoping for.

“We’re only here for one night,” Fortune explained, “and I want to make sure that the fans know us and are still thinking about us for the rest of the year. What we do tonight, hopefully this will kickstart fans to start watching this on TV and we’ll be able to come back.

“You want to go out and make a performance, but you don’t want to make the stunts and the jumps look staged. It comes down to instinct, and you have to use the adrenaline to play it out live.

“Every time we come somewhere new, quite often you’ll see fans that aren’t reacting because they’re just sitting in awe! Y’know, they forget to react. But that’s okay, this is a blast, we want the crowd to lose their minds! That’s what we’re here for.”


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