LAS VEGAS - Simply put, doing New Year's celebrations big is what it's all about in Las Vegas. Throw in extreme sports powerhouse sponsor Red Bull and safe to say, something epic is bound to happen. For its 2009 New Year's celebration, the energy drink company put on its Red Bull: New Year. No Limits event at the Rio Hotel and Casino, highlighted by a first ever full flip and landing of a truck by famed drift champion, New Zealander Rhys Millen. Before a crowd of more than 3000 people and a live television audience of millions around the world, Millen successfully flipped the specially built truck, but to his dismay, failed to stick the landing as practiced.
Millen attempted the same jump in Vegas last year, but over-rotated and landed harshly on the topside of his fully caged cockpit in practice. He suffered a severe back injury and was forced to pull out of the event, an experience he labeled as "a failure."
Practice went as planned for this year's try, but during the climactic jump -- broadcast live to million of viewers on ESPN -- the rear passenger wheel of Millen's highly-modified, short-wheelbase, 2800-lb Chevrolet Silverado landed first. The truck bounced and rolled twice before stopping on its driver side. Millen said during his post-jump interview that the truck was traveling 1.5 mph faster than the needed 35 mph, leading to the over-rotation.
"I guess I should be glass half full, but I'm a little bit glass half empty, purely because I'm a perfectionist," Millen explained. "And my ultimate goal was to not just pull off the rotation and manipulate the truck and do a backflip, but to drive away."
To get a better grasp of the feat's difficulty, not only did Millen have to master the approach, but had to take into account wind speed, weather, angle and grip during the stunt -- the bulk of which were calculated while racing towards the specialty ramp..
Separate from being lead-footed thanks to the extra adrenaline (and Red Bull) rush, Millen speculated the truck's suspension setup played a large part in the failed landing. Despite he and his team of engineers' successful practice runs into beds of cardboard boxes -- much the same tactic freestyle motorcrossers use when practicing jumps -- they couldn't anticipate the suspension's behavior upon landing.
"The suspension is what caught us off guard -- the spring rate and the suspension settings were all designed to leave the ramp. In effect, they have no rebound control. It's just compress the spring and fire off," Millen said disappointingly. "That's what fired the truck up and over."
When asked what was next, Millen didn't exactly know, but was optimistic another extreme stunt would be planned in '09. For now, he and his wife will have their hands full with a new baby on the way and of course, his Drifting World Championship crown to defend.
"Twelve years ago Carey Hart was the first to flip a motorcycle and effectively landed in a similar fashion. That was considered then a back flip, so I'm going (to say) that this was a back flip."
So do we.