Friday, April 4, 2014

‘Size Matters 2’ answers the question you’ve always wanted to know: What’s it like to turn a semi into a drift racer?

Drift racing and semi-trucks seem like they should go together about as well as ice cream and onions, right?

Not in Mike Ryan’s world.

Ryan, an OOIDA member from Santa Clarita, Calif., is a renowned stunt driver and champion truck racer. He discovered the combination a few years ago while competing in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, a 12.42-mile race that takes drivers up nearly 5,000 feet to the summit of the mountain.

“I make my living as a stunt driver, and I’ve worked on ‘Fast and Furious 5’ and 6. I’m currently working on Fast 7, as well as ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier.’ That’s what I do,” he said in a phone interview with Land Line. “It took me a while to build up the courage to try it in the truck and then it occurred to me that all the years Pike’s Peak was dirt that I raced up there, I was sliding sideways in the dirt. So it just took a little bit of practice to figure out how to do it on the pavement.”

The experience prompted Ryan to make a drifting video in 2011 of his souped-up Freightliner Cascadia rig on a stunt course at an abandoned Marine barracks in El Toro, Calif. The video of that run, “Size Matters,” became a YouTube sensation, and has garnered over 1.8 million views.

“I thought I’d flip it; I thought I’d tear it up and wreck it, but fortunately I haven’t hurt it too much,” he said. “My stomach was definitely in my throat the first few times (attempting to drift). Just getting a feel of what it would do, and what it wanted to do, and what it wanted from me to be able to drift it.”

Now, Ryan and his crew are at it again, having released the follow-up video, “Size Matters 2.” Shot during a single day at the Matson terminal at the Port of Long Beach, the video features Ryan’s rig competing in a “gymkhana” style race against a rally car driver. Gymkhana races are typically speed or time trial events around an obstacle course.

The course at the Matson terminal is no joke – featuring shipping containers, port authority police, fork-lifts and a jump obstacle.

“With a truck, my title of ‘Size Matters’ is essentially that,” he said. “Lots of people might be able to do (the stunts) in a rally car. Try it in a 10,000-pound truck. So ‘Size Matters 2’ needed to be in a world where only trucks live. Not really a car world.”

Ryan said the biggest problem was having only one day to shoot.

“The location fee, and the permit fee, and the insurance fee was over half of our budget,” he said. “We didn’t have any ‘Take-Twos.’ We didn’t have time for any.”

As of Friday morning, “Size Matters 2” already has over 702,000 views on YouTube.

The truck itself is something of a marvel of modern engineering. Like most racing vehicles, it features a large spoiler on the back to help with stability. The truck also features custom suspension and electronics. Under the hood is a 2,400 HP Detroit Diesel Series 60 race spec engine, with a super-turbo charge air system built by Gale Banks. 

“They really paid attention to giving us more bottom end and more drivable power,” he said. “You can have all the horsepower in the world, but if you can’t put it to the ground and manage it, then it’s not very useful.”

Ryan said he hopes the video will help gain support and interest for ChampTruck World Series, a road racing series he and his partners are planning to bring to North America, which will feature Class 8 tractors with commercially available diesel engines.

“We had our first ChampTruck at Mid-America (Trucking Show),” he said. “We’re hoping to have a dozen trucks ready to compete within the next six months. We want to start building some teams and use them as pace cars and other media vehicles.”