Interview: Bryce Menzies Gives the Run Down on Red Bull Frozen Rush and Pro 4

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At 28-years old, Bryce Menzies has raced on nearly every earthly surface that’s not a road. Now with about 10 years of experience under his seat belt, he’s competitively drive off-road with Pro 2 trucks, Pro 4 trucks, and trophy trucks. He’s won major events like the Mint 400 and the Baja 500, and most recently repeated as champion at Red Bull Frozen Rush at Sunday River Ski Resort up in Newry, Maine. He was kind enough to hop on the phone with us to talk about his 950-horsepower Ford off-roading beast, racing on different turfs, and how the hell you drive a truck up a mountain intended for skiing down.

How are the trucks for Frozen Rush different than your normal off-road trucks?
They’re pretty much the same exact truck that we race in short course. It’s a Pro 4 truck. Really the only thing that we do is put heating blankets on some of the motor compartments like the oil tank or the transmission and stuff like that just to keep the oil warm, because it gets so cold that it gets thicker. Little things like that that will help out throughout the runs.

What’s the build process like?
They’re pretty much unlimited four-wheel drive in our class. You can kind of build whatever you want. The only thing is that it’s weight per cubic inch. It’s 10 to 1 cubic inch per pound. The truck I drove was around 4,600 pounds, so we had about a 450 cubic-inch motor in there. Every truck is different. Some people have lighter weight trucks, but then they have a smaller motor, so that’s the only thing in that class as far as rules go.

How do you like that compared to strict and specific guidelines?
I think it makes the class challenging. It makes everybody think outside the box. I really like it. We just built a new truck for that class and it’s state-of-the-art. Some people are in a manual transmission, some people are in automatic, so it kind of changes it up and lets people go all out and evolve the sport and push the limits of the sport. I really like Pro 4, it’s definitely a hard class. It’s only my second year running a full season with it, so I’m still trying to get comfortable with it.

The fact that automatics were facing off against manuals is an interesting factor. The difference in jumps off the line was huge. Your truck has an automatic, how does that change how you race?
I had an automatic in the snow. The new truck that I’m racing in the dirt is a manual, and it’s kind of opposite. The manuals are quicker in the dirt series, and then when we get to the snow, the automatics are almost faster just because they’re a lot smoother, and off the start line, it takes some of that load away, so it doesn’t spin the tires as much and dig into the snow. It’s pretty wild to see that.

Considering a couple people stalled with the manuals, that seemed like a more volatile choice. 
You could tell that they would stall them out just because I think the snow was changing so much. The real thick powder has a lot of grip, so the truck would sort of lug down and stall out. Or there was just too much wheel spin, so it just seemed like they struggled with that a lot. With this race you have to be so precise and so easy on the equipment, that with a manual, the truck would get real tight in the corners or real loose and it seemed like you could see that with the times. And the drivers that raced the manuals, they were really fast in the dirt, but up in the snow, you could tell that it really hurt them quite a bit.

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The biggest change for the trucks is the tires. How were they modified for the conditions?
When we first came up with this idea, we tried to just run it with the regular tires, and the thing would just get stuck right away. So BF Goodrich had their engineers building us studded tires that have right around 700 studs per tire. And once you put those on, it’s incredible what they’ll do. It has more traction than what we feel in the dirt, and you can see that with the trucks reacting every time you jump off a jump and land. Whatever the way the tires are pointed, the truck almost jerks back and forth just because how much traction leads into it and leads to the ruts on the course, the holes that we’re digging. It makes the track that much more violent, but it also allows us to get up and down the hill quick.

With that much traction, does it require more finesse, or do you have to be on the wheel more?
It’s almost both. You have to have a little bit of finesse, but every time you land, the truck just wants to jerk. At the end of this race, it’s almost the most I’ve ever had to work at the steering wheel in a race. Every time you land or every time you hit a corner, the wheel wants to rip out of your hand, so you have to be on top of that 24/7. Like I said, it’s almost more exhausting in this race than something like the Baja 1000.

And it only lasts a few minutes.
Yeah, this race is about 10 minutes, not even, and the Baja 1000 is 16 hours, so it just shows you how demanding this race is.

What do you think of the one-and-done format?
I think it’s challenging. It’s hard to go all the way to Maine from California or Las Vegas and race four laps and then you’re done, but it just puts a lot more pressure on the drivers. You have to be spot-on the very first time and every time you’re out there. It makes it a lot more challenging and it kind of makes that type of racing more unique than anything we get to do anywhere else. That’s why they chose the drivers they did. We’ve all been around the pressure situations, and they know we can handle it.

What’s it like being a part of Red Bull’s evolutionary sports movements and helping progress a sport you love?
It’s awesome being involved with Red Bull because they believe in their athletes. You come up with an idea, and they’re one of those companies that won’t turn down any idea. They’ll look at it, they’ll process it. If you believe in it 100 percent, they’re going to back you and do everything possible to make it happen. It’s awesome to be a part of a company that backs anything you dream of and they’ll help you out, as long as it’s realistic.

When we first came up with this snow idea, I was like, “man, I just don’t know if this is going to be possible.” And they thought it was going to be a great turnout, so they said, “let’s just go with it and run with it.” To be with Red Bull and just be able to come up with ideas and see it all the way through and see them pushing the sport that I love, to see them taking this sport to the next level is really cool. I’ve been with them for six years now and I look forward to many years with them.

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How’d it feel to win for the second time in a row?
It felt good. There was a lot of pressure going into the third year [of Frozen Rush] after winning the second year. Everybody was asking if I was going to repeat and do the same thing. So I went in with a lot more pressure than I did the year before. We just played it smart and kicked it off like we did the year before, real smooth and consistent throughout the runs, and I think that’s what helped win this race.

What kind of approach did you take coming into the race?
The biggest thing with Frozen Rush is that if you make any mistakes, it really plays a lot into the finish. It’s one-truck elimination, so if you make one small mistake, it leaves a big time difference in the end. With me, my biggest thing was to just make no mistakes — almost drive a little bit slower than I would be used to so I didn’t make those mistakes. A lot of the other drivers were pushing the trucks a lot harder, and it seems they made mistakes. I think that really helped me out toward the end.

This was probably the craziest year with the car flipping and the stalls. What were you thinking as you were watching the others go at it?
This year was quite a difference just because the temperatures were a lot warmer, so the snow was softer. It made the track deteriorate a lot quicker and it made for a lot more holes and a lot more ruts. The biggest thing was that you just had to be cautious through those areas.

Throughout the race, it was almost trying to push that first lap as hard as you could to give yourself a little bit of a head start going to the second lap where you could actually slow down and take it a little bit easier, because the track got so bad that it was actually scary toward the end. It’d make the truck want to almost roll or buck around a lot more, so you just had to be more cautious this year compared to last year.

Around that final corner, there was a huge track of dirt, and with the spiked tires, that of course grips much differently than on the snow.
Yeah, we saw that coming in. We knew that there was only about six inches of snow down there, so we knew we’d get to the dirt. With those spiked tires, when you get to the dirt, it actually grabs a lot more than the snow, so when you’re pulling the truck in sideways and you catch the dirt, it actually wants to turn the truck straight again, so you have to prepare for that. The final race was six laps, going in to the last corner was really difficult, because it got down to the dirt and it wanted to move the truck around a lot more. You had to plan ahead for that last turn just cause you knew it was going to happen.

Watch the full races here:

As told to Tony Markovich (@T_Marko)

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