Inside a Monster Jam Driver’s Mind on Racing and Freestyle: Jim Koehler, driver of Avenger
Anytime you’re at a Monster Jam show, you see the craziness that a freestyle run can bring. And you think, there can’t be any method to that madness, right? Wrong. There is a method. Each driver has their own secret and that’s why it is always interesting to see how they attack the course ahead of them.
For Jim Koehler, driver of Avenger, he does have a strategy to it. He will take the time to walk around the track, checking out the obstacles, determining how he will attack them.
“I just look at all the obstacles and see if I’m on this side of the obstacle I would attack it,” Koehler explained. “If I’m over here, how would I attack it? I size up three or four good hits where this jump is going to be my best jump for big air, this jump is going to be for a sky wheelie or something crazy, this one over here – it’s going to be an awesome cross thread; I hope nobody does it before me ‘cause I want to be the first guy to do that.”
It’s all about picking out three to five spectacular moves that you are going to use during the run, since he says you don’t want to use them right out of the gate.
“You want to save them for more towards the end or for bonus time,” he said.
While they analyze the track, they aren’t setting their run in stone as you can’t do that since you don’t know how the truck will react to the previous obstacle. Koehler says if he was to plan that way and then the truck go off a different way than planned, then it’d make it confusing.
In that track walk he does before the run, he determines three or four different ways he can start the run.
“I hate starting the same way as people one or two guys before me,” he commented. “So if they use my idea, then I will have to change up my plan a little bit.”
Once you’re on track, then it’s all about attacking the obstacles. Koehler notes that you may steer around to get another because you’re lined up for both and the second obstacle in line may produce a better show.
“You just plan your obstacles as you go and then see which way the truck is pointing because in monster trucks, you never know which way it is going to point,” he said.
It’s all about keeping his mind in the game, and focusing on different jumps, different angles to attack them at, and where the truck is going to land so he can make the perfect combo without hesitation.
When it comes to the racing side, that’s a whole different deal as Koehler says you want to keep yourself calm, espically if you’re out first.
“If it’s a show that we’re going to do a qualifying pass, then you’re going to get a feel for the track,” he commented. “Even if you screw up, you still have a chance to redeem yourself. You might have someone fast that got a good qualifying time, but at least you can redeem yourself.”
Koehler then adds that there are shows where they don’t do qualifying so they draw for numbers. When it comes to those runs, he likes to not go first so that way he can watch other trucks. That way he can see how the track is reacting and whether he made the right choice in tire pressure and the gear ratio.
“Then you know if you have a shot,” he said. “If you’re the first guy out of the gate, then I just concentrate. I got to do it and do the best you can and try to beat the guy. If I beat him, that’s a pass, then let’s concentrate on the next round and do better to hopefully beat that guy. “
At each show, you are bound to see something get torn up and sometimes bodies get damaged majorly. Last year by the end of his winning freestyle run on the Sunday, Koehler had the body ripped off. That’s why teams start the season prepared, with parts made before the first quarter of the season starts.
“I’ve got five roof sections, four sets of side panels, three or four front clips and at least five rear deck lids,” he said. “Now, I’ve already broken a feel of those panels – I haven’t rolled over, but the tire gets into them, stuff hits them, and you get up on the side walls, kind of roll over but you save it, but the tire gets into it and it tears the body off.”
Not every body that is damaged is ruined as Koehler notes that they repair pieces as they go. However, it’s nice to be prepared as they go.
“If I go out there and roll over and screw up a bunch of suspension stuff and maybe do the transmission or motor problem that I have to work through, it’s easy for me to throw a body on that I have to work through then have to fix all that body and all that mechanical stuff to make it to the next show,” he said. “You want to be ahead of the game so we try to have four or five bodies to start the season and we repair them and build more stuff as we go.
“We’re different than a lot of teams – we build our own fiberglass and do our own paint work. A lot of teams have to buy them so they may not want to buy five bodies because they’re pretty pricey, but we build all of our own stuff so we can do that.”
This weekend, Jim Koehler along with 15 of his closest competitors kick off the Maple Leaf Monster Jam tour at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Tickets are still available through http://www.ticketmaster.ca for both the Saturday night show and the Sunday afternoon show.
For more details on the whole Maple Leaf Monster Jam tour, check out http://www.monsterjamcanada.ca.