A MONSTER OF A SNOWMOBILE JUMP!
Monster Energy's Paul Thacker Eclipses 300'
Thacker adds a monumental chapter to the history of snowmobiling, becomes the first athlete ever to jump a sled the length of a football field
Monster Energy's Paul Thacker achieved his dream yesterdayjumping a snowmobile more than 300 feet through the air and landing safely back to earth at Minnesota's Brainerd International Raceway and, in the process, setting a milestone on March 26th, 2009, that will be forever remembered in both action sports and the sport of snowmobiling.
Said Thacker: "I got up to 87 miles per hour and hit the take-off ramp. When I was in the air I just knew it was perfect. Flew over 301 feet. With the amplitude and the way I landed I knew we got to where we wanted to be."
"I was already screaming in my helmet on the down run."
Thacker's feat yesterday absolutely smashes his previous snowmobile distance jumping world record of 271 feet he set on Feb. 17th, 2008. The stunt also puts Thacker in the same company as his buddy, fellow Monster Energy motorcycle distance jumper Ryan Capes, who was the first athlete to break the 300-foot barrier on a motorcycle.
Piloting a 430-pound Bikeman Performance-powered Polaris IQ 600 snowmobile with custom Fox Shox suspension through the overcast but calm skies of above the famed NHRA drag racing facility, Thacker's pursuit of the once mythical 300-foot snowmobile jump mark didn't even look like it was going to get off the ground. Foul weather early in the week, coupled with high winds (which can spell disaster in distance jumping), put Thacker's efforts on hold time after time.
Tuesday, March 24th: Thacker and the Monster Energy team arrive at BIR and begin to get the sled dialed. Weather's "awful," according to Thacker. "Raining sideways, blowing like stink." The team got the Slednecks take-off jump set up, put together the massive snow pile landingeven though the temperature was reaching 55-degrees. "We ended up just shutting 'er down and went and watched the Weather Channel for Wednesday," said Thacker. Note: Fortunately for Thacker and the Monster Energy team the snow pile landing froze on Tuesday night, making it perfect for the remainder of the week.
Wednesday, March 25th: "We got up and it was still pretty crappy out. The wind wasn't too bad, but it was rainy, drizzly," said Thacker. "I ended jumping around 11 a.m., stuff right around 200 feet. We worked to get some measurements and stuff, then the wind started howling." With crosswinds at upwards of 35 mph, Thacker said he was "starting to get pushed off the landing." The team broke for lunch, came back out and the winds had picked up even more. "We went on hold, then turned the ambulances loose at 4 o'clock when the winds were up to 40 mph," he said.
Thursday, March 26th: Rain turned to snow for Thacker and the Monster Energy team which, according to Thacker, "is appropriate for what we do." Out to the track at 7 a.m., the winds were a manageable 10 mph. Thacker started jumping around 10 a.m., beginning with a 150-foot gap between the take-off ramp and the face of the landing snow pilejumping again in the 200-foot range. They'd pull the take-off ramp back 25 feet at a time, jumping twice on the first pull back (200-250 feet), two more times on the next pull back (250-plus) then pulled the take-off ramp back again.
"The third time we pulled it back I knew I needed 85 mph plus and I'd been getting 82-83 mph," said Thacker. "So we did some clutching and some jetting adjustments and I got 84 mph and went 283 (feet) with a 235-foot gapa new world record. We could have shut it down at that point, but, to be honest with you, I wasn't even excited with the new world record. Myself, Monsterall my other sponsorsit wasn't what we wanted."
So Thacker and the Monster Energy team met with the safety crew and pulled the ramp back againknowing that if he didn't, and hit the previous gap going faster, he'd come dangerously close to hitting flat, which would be disastrous. On the same token the gap now grew to 250 feet, which definitely plays on your psyche when riding past and sizing it up.
"I took a couple speed runs and knew I had to hit at least 84 mph," said Thacker. "Anything less would have basically been the end of me."
The Monster Energy team took to the Bikeman Performance-powered Polaris IQ 600 sled one more time, checking over the Fox Shocks suspension and making one last highly important technical decision: "We decided to swap the track out for one with smaller lugslighter, better aero (aerodynamics) and, hopefully, more distance," said Thacker.
At 3 p.m. Thacker and the Monster Energy Team had quit jumping, torn into the sled one last time. Thacker slid out onto BIR's quarter mile drag strip about an hour later and clicked off some final fly-byes. The radar read 87...88...89 mphprecisely what he needed. Now it was go time.
"I stopped by the trailer one last time and my mechanic, Alex, gave the sled a once-over and sent me on my way," said Thacker. "I hit it at 87 (mph) and flew just over 301 feet."
It wasn't until later, celebrating at a local tavern, when one of the guys from the crew, Slednecks' JB Gasperone, came up to Thacker and said: "You know how many jumps you made?"
Thacker: "No, how many?"
Thacker just laughed. "300 feet has been such a huge goal, such a huge sense of accomplishment. And I'm honored to be the first person to do so," he said.
Paul Thacker is sponsored by: Monster Energy, Slednecks, Polaris, Bikeman Performance, Oakley, C & A Pro Skis, Fox Shox, Kicker and HMR.