Monster Spectacular Tour Update – Ottawa: A Battle of Champions

(Ottawa, Ontario – By Doug De Nance) Monster Spectacular always is a “must see” when the big trucks visit the capital of Canada. But this time there was more on the line in Ottawa than ever before. It was to be a showdown between two champions – the defending Monster Spectacular champion, Joe Sylvester in the Readylift Bad Habit truck versus the newly crowned World Freestyle Champion, Jim Koehler and Avenger.

This battle had been fought before in this very same building one year ago. Last year Sylvester triumphed at Scotiabank Place by hitting massive reverser wheelies to defeat Koehler for the coveted Monster Spectacular crown.

This year Koehler’s confidence was boosted by the winning of his second world freestyle title in Las Vegas a few weeks before. But Sylvester had another year under his belt – and that year had the pressure of defending his Monster Spectacular crown at every turn.

One of the coolest stories this spring, Vaters Monster Motorsports debuted their new Higher Education school bus monster truck in Montreal.

Yet it looked like there could be a spoiler or two in this storyline, because some of the greatest names in monster trucks were sitting in the pits. Along with the brand new Higher Education truck, there sat 29 year veteran Mike Vaters and Black Stallion and the big dog Brutus driven by Chris Bergeron.

Bergeron put the first wrinkle into the flow by definitively winning the wheelie contest. Bergeron blasted Brutus skyward on his first pass and landed “pogo” style, landing perfectly vertical by planting his wheelie bar into the final car in the stack. But his second pass was even more spectacular, hitting a massive sky wheelie. But the car stack collapsed sending Brutus sideways. Bergeron somehow pulled the big dog out of a bicycle on the passenger side two wheels and set the truck down on all four tires. Even Koehler preempted the cheeroff to congratulate the obvious winner – his Team Scream team mate, Chris Bergeron.

Chris Bergeron hits a huge wheelie in Brutus to take the opening win in Ottawa.

The next spoiler was Mike Vaters. The Black Stallion driver is known to be an extraordinary racer. He’s also known as the King of Concrete, with endless experience on the slippery surfaces like the track in Ottawa. Plus, he loves to race his way through the brackets. Vaters did just that, winning racing confidently.

So the story of the battle really did come down to the two champions in freestyle. While the other trucks laid down amazing freestyle runs that could easily win any other night, all eyes were on Bad Habit and Avenger.

Sylvester eased onto the course, knowing that the variable time clock would not start until he hit the first obstacle. Bad Habit hit every obstacle hard including not one, but two reversers – with the final one clearing all five cars in the stack.

Jim Koehler may be at his best ever as he takes the freestyle win in Ottawa, his third straight since winning the World Finals Freestyle title for the second time.

During an interview the question was posed to Koehler if he could just lay back now that he was world champion once again. Koehler answered it then with a very loud no. And he answered it again very loudly with the roar of Avenger.

Hitting every obstacle multiple times, Avenger caught the biggest air of the night on each one. But it was Koehler’s final cyclone donut that sealed the deal. Whirling so fast that Avenger seemed like a green blur, Koehler emerged staggeringly dizzy to the loudest roar of all – that of the Monster Spectacular fans!

Those same fans were treated to more excitement in the form of quad racing, freestyle motocross and the Krazy Krew BMX team – who all jumped over the announcer’s head.

Be sure to treat yourself to all the excitement the next time Monster Spectacular comes to your town. Check for a show near you.

(Photos by Johany Jutras)

Monster Spectacular Tour Update – Ottawa

(Chris Arel Motorsports PR – By Doug De Nance) So it had all come down to this. Six long hard fought months with the best monster trucks in the world… all across Canada from Saint John, New Brunswick to Victoria, B.C.… all competing to be the best of the best… all wanting to be the most spectacular of Monster Spectacular. The points had earned five trucks the chance to be the top truck in Monster Truck Wheelie, Racing and Freestyle – maybe even the top truck overall. Now it was the moment of truth. One night. The Night of Champions.

The drivers were all jumpy throughout the morning and afternoon of the Saturday night show. They acted like there was no pressure – joking around and apparently having fun. But careful observation revealed an inordinate amount of attention by the drivers double checking every little thing on the trucks. When they thought no one was looking, the eyebrows would lower and the eyes would go blank as they visualized their greatest performances. To paraphrase the great American football coach Vince Lombardi “… at this level winning is 90% mental”.

Fans began to flood into Scotiabank Place the moment the doors opened. They wanted to be close to the best of the best. The drivers did their best to hide their nerves and the fans helped put them at ease taking pictures and giving autographs on the exclusive Monster Spectacular souvenirs.

Jim Koehler lived up to his nickname of Mr. Excitement, revving the fans up in a pre-show interview to cheer for Avenger. Steve Koehler took a page out of his older brother’s book and shouted out his desire for the fans to get behind Brutus. Joe Sylvester flexed his massive arms for the cameras and took a more low key approach to seek support for his 2010 Cadillac truck Bad Habit. Bob Robbins was as friendly as ever, but noted that he’d waited 12 years to win a title for Aftershock and was short of patience to wait any longer. The one man who had trouble expressing himself on the mic due to his struggles with English and French (after all, it was his first time in Canada) was the Russian hired gun driver for Krazy Train, Sergei Kurishnikoff, known as the Siberian Express. The muscular man from Moscow had no language barrier when it came to his skill behind the wheel and he let his driving do the talking. He had won monster truck racing the night before in Kingston and had earned his way straight into the finals.

Three monster truck disciplines were on the agenda, each with the Monster Spectacular Championship going to the winner. Would there be an overall champion if one driver could be a multiple winner?

When the Wheelie Contest was announced, it looked like Avenger would be that truck. Mr. Excitement had the most experience at the top levels of competition, being a former Monster Truck Freestyle Champion of the World. Koehler had pulled the coveted last spot in the order draw and was strapped in his truck form the moment show introductions were over, just waiting to milk it for all it was worth.

Kurishnikoff didn’t have the same break he had in racing, drawing first. But he stood Krazy Train perfectly vertical in a classic 12 o’clock wheelie to start the competition. Bob Robbins did the same thing with Aftershock to essentially tie up the first two places. Then Bad Habit hit the cars. Sylvester took the new school wheelie approach and launched Bad Habit into a massive sky wheelie with all four tires off the ground. Steve Koehler knew he had to make the big dog sit up and beg and tried to do the same thing with Brutus. But the cars slipped slightly on his approach and he twisted off to the side, barely missing the dasher boards as he smashed down to the ground.

Avenger eased out of the pits and drove slowly past the fans, as Koehler waved from his center seat. He deliberately turned the ’57 Chevy in a 3 point turn to line up the cars. He paused for a moment, allowing the big block engine to quiet to an idle, and then blasted Avenger to the car stack. A huge straight ahead sky wheelie was the result. But the question formed on everyone’s lips – was it bigger than Bad Habit’s wheelie?

The drivers tried to swagger with confidence as they made their way to the arena floor for the cheer off. When the sound meter was calibrated, there was no doubt this was the loudest crowd of the season. Who would they give that same level of cheering for to award a champion? Well it wasn’t Krazy Train, or Aftershock or Brutus. But it was impossible to decide between Bad Habit and Avenger. It had to go to a second cheer off. The noise was deafening for both but the sound meter told the tale. By a couple of decibels, Avenger had won the Monster Spectacular Monster Truck Wheelie Championship for 2010.

While Jim Koehler basked in the glory of his Wheelie win, Avenger is not known as a truck that dominates racing. As a matter of fact, Team Scream is known more for freestyle than straight ahead drag racing. That meant that the big man from Moscow just might have to learn to speak something other than Russian if he had to conduct a championship interview. Kurishnikoff was the one to beat, yet would have to go into the finals cold with no preliminary race to warm him up.

If it seemed that Brutus was just warming up, Steve Koehler proved he was hot from the get go. Yet after easily besting Aftershock, the younger Koehler brother seemed almost surprised to be facing Bad Habit in the semi-finals, as Sylvester had defeated the older Koehler and Avenger. Once the flag dropped the big dog took a bite out of Bad Habit and Steve Koehler had Brutus in his first championship final.

During the half time VIP party in the pits, Steve Koehler was mobbed by fans, thinking the same thing that the Brutus driver was thinking – is this the moment when he steps out from his brother’s shadow and wins his own championship? After the remote ignition interrupter was tested on the two trucks, the silence was deafening. The younger driver in Brutus looked across at the Russian in Krazy Train, but Kurishnikoff stared straight ahead, seemingly willing his truck to be first across the finish line. But once the flag dropped there was no doubt, this was Steve Koehler’s moment; Brutus had won the Monster Spectacular Racing title.

Steve Koehler could barely contain himself during the Championship interview, shouting his excitement to the fans. Mr. Excitement came to the track to congratulate his younger brother and team mate and then left the winners circle to let his former crew chief have his moment of glory. Steve celebrated the best way he could, tossing collector edition souvenirs to the fans.

Now it was time to toss caution to the wind, because Monster Truck Freestyle would decide if there would be an overall Monster Spectacular Champion. The points were just that close, that it would take a double down win for one driver to be the overall winner. But as Jim Koehler pointed out, the real winners were the fans, there to see such tight competition.

Running in the intro order mean that Krazy Train and Aftershock were the first two trucks out. Both drivers did an admirable job of hitting all the obstacles and working the unique variable clock of Monster Spectacular freestyle competition by showing their ability to get creative with extra time.

Then Bad Habit hit the floor. Roaring out of the pits, the big man from Ohio rammed the Cadillac into the van stack and launched his 10,000 pound truck into the biggest air of the night. Sylvester had to jam his brakes on hard to drop the front end in time to land the truck and not crash into the other parked in the pits. Bad Habit pulled every trick in the book including a cyclone donut. When Sylvester realized the variable clock was working in his favor he knew he’d have to wow the judges and the fans. He did just that with not one, but two huge reverser wheelies, his last one sending him air born backwards over the van stack.

Steve Koehler knew he’d have to drive on the ragged edge to beat Sylvester and he took Brutus there in a hurry. But this time it was the dog that got bitten as he went up into a bicycle on the two wheels on the driver side and then rolled the truck. Avenger appeared to come to the rescue and was chained to Brutus to turn the turn upright, but Koehler waved them off and left Brutus upside down as a potential obstacle for Avenger’s freestyle.

The former World Champion knew his freestyle must be of that caliber to been Bad Habit and Koehler pulled out every trick he could. Hugh sky wheelies, slap wheelies up on two wheels, it was a run of epic proportions. He was so aware of his surroundings that Koehler saw the time end as he as in the middle of a massive donut. So he took the steering wheel and tossed it out on the track floor as he continued to spin.

The judges debated and argued as the fans ran to the track floor for the post show VIP pit party. Would they be congratulating an overall champion or would they be celebrating a different winner? Finally the word came down. Bad Habit had won the Monster Spectacular Monster Truck Freestyle Championship for 2010.

Congratulations to all the drivers and truck teams who made the 2010 Tour the best with the tightest competition ever in over 20 years of Monster Spectacular. As Jim Koehler said – it’s the fans that are the real winners with Monster Spectacular. One more finale show to go in 2010 in Montreal this fall and then look out – here comes the 2011 Monster Spectacular Championship Tour!! Check out for more information.