"Nothing beats the feeling of flying through the air", says the fresh-faced Jack Monkhouse, former Australian Rally Championship class winner and competitive drifting enthusiast. Jack now plies his trade as a member of Team D-MAX, thrilling crowds with stunt and precision driving at agricultural shows across the country. "It's just great fun", he says.
"I can remember going to the Adelaide Show as a kid and as a teenager, and watching the driving teams, and it's pretty surreal to be a part of it now."
Even more surreal, however, is just what Jack and co. can do in a D-MAX which is fitted out with regular rubber—even for the spectacular, and very challenging, two-wheeled driving demonstrations. Which means that, if ever the mood took him, Jack could literally drive on two wheels at work … and then on the freeway back home. "Yep, that's correct," he grins. "I'm sure law enforcement might have different ideas about that, but yes, you could give it a shot. No problem."
How hard is it to perform each of the tricks, though? Let's find out…
"This is the hardest part of the show, without a doubt. It's a case of almost rolling the car, but catching it before it goes over. It's a black art—even Team D-MAX's Dave Shannon, who's been driving on two wheels longer than I've been alive, can't explain it. It's probably the most frustrating thing I've ever had to do, because you'll get the knack and then you spend the next two hours struggling to do it again. Or you finally get it on bitumen, but on grass, dirt or uneven ground, while turning, with the balance points shifting, it's next level. Exceptionally difficult—I'd say 6/5 if I could."
Difficulty rating: 5/5
Formation ute 'dancing'
"What gets a great crowd response is what we call our ‘Music'—it's slow, choreographed formation driving, which looks great in a showground with a big grandstand. It really demonstrates just how precise and accurate you can be when idling in first gear, almost 'dancing' in formation on the grass. You're so close to the other cars that your wing mirrors are touching. It's a great change of pace in the show—it gives our passengers a real buzz!"
Difficulty rating: 3/5
"We have three vehicles parked in the gap between two ramps, and the ramps are only two-and-a-bit metres wide, so speed is critical. If you go too fast, you'll overshoot the landing ramp, and too slow will put you onto the cars underneath you. And if you don't hit the jump squarely, you'll go off the side. It's an adrenaline rush every time! You're usually only going about 70km/h, depending on the jump distance. Some arenas are quite small—in Perth, for example, we start our run-up outside the arena and basically have to stop on the spot when we land. It's a long way up—and you come down pretty hard on basic tyres and standard suspension! But they soak it up again and again."
Difficulty rating: 4/5
"That's where you have a car in every corner of the arena, then accelerate towards each other, flat out— and miss by millimetres in the crossover pass in the centre. You need to trust the other drivers a lot. If one driver has contact then everyone ‘gets involved', because the timing has to be millimetre perfect. You're always watching the other cars, because your positioning is all feel, so I've got no real idea how fast we're going—you can't look down at the speedo! But it's probably about 70km/h—which means it's a 140km/h differential for a head-on. It's a real thrill."
Difficulty rating: 3.5/5
Handbrake turns & reverse flicks
"We do a lot of handbrake turns in a performance and they're critical— sometimes you'll be doing it between two cars that are coming head on towards you, with a gap in the middle, and you have to do a 180-degree spin between them. It needs precision. And then at other shows, such as the Royal Easter Show, or at Gympie, where their track is only about two-and-a-half car widths wide—narrower than the ute is long—you have to do a handbrake turn on the track, but without hitting the outside or inside fences. It's hairy."
Difficulty rating: 4/5