The SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks returned to their roots on Saturday, racing in a stadium for the first time since the inaugural season in 2013. The race, held at the Beijing National Stadium in China as a support event to Monster Jam, marked the first SST race in mainland Asia, though not the first SST event in the continent; in late September/early October 2016, the series visited the Mongolia Desert for a demo session.
The track itself was a dirt oval (also a first for the series) with jumps on the straightaways, similar to a dirt Martinsville Speedway featuring dirt ramps. Various junked cars were littered in the turns as part of Monster Jam, while the center of the stadium was off-limits due to the existence of a performance elevator (for use during the 2008 Summer Olympics’ ceremonies). A Joker Lap was also implemented. Over 40,000 fans were in attendance for the race.
Jeff Hoffman was fastest during practice with a lap time of 19.22, followed by Robby Gordon (19.25), Davey Hamilton Jr. (19.96), Gavin Harlien (20.21), Matt Brabham (20.41), Paul Morris (20.52), series newcomer Li Ya Tao (20.91), Bill Hynes (21.03), Todd Romano (22.13) and Arie Luyendyk Jr. (24.41).
Hamilton became the leader early on. Tao’s race quickly came to an end after two laps, when he rolled his truck and flew over Hynes before landing. The accident forced the red flag to come out and both drivers to retire from the event. When the race went green once again, Hamilton remained in 1st, but was met by pressure from Brabham before holding to his position.
Brabham dropped to 3rd when Luyendyk passed him on the backstretch, but retook the position in bizarre fashion: as he exoted turn four, Luyendyk clipped a destroyed yellow car parked on the apron, causing him to roll. Brabham managed to avoid the wreck to take 2nd back. Although Luyendyk was rolled back on his wheels, he was forced to retire from the race.
Hamilton, Brabham and Romano comprised the top-3 positions for the restart. As the race progressed, many trucks started accumulating body damage, including Hamilton, whose hood disconnected from the truck, but remained barely attached. On the final lap, Brabham attempted to pass Hamilton in turn four by bumping him, but was unable to make the move as Hamilton took the win. However, Hamilton did not take the Joker Lap, which led to his disqualification and Brabham being declared the race winner.
Gordon finished 2nd, followed by Hoffman, Harlien, Morris, Romano, Luyendyk, Hynes and Tao. After being disqualified, Hamilton fell to 10th.
At the series’ last race in Darwin, Brabham saw his truck being taken by Gordon in the middle of the night for a burnout session in the city. This time, yet another piece of Brabham’s equipment was discovered to be missing, though at the hands of a fan this time. While taking a group photo after the race, a fan stole Brabham’s helmet. While the culprit has been recognized in photos from the series Twitter, whether he has been apprehended has not been announced.
“That sucks! We got together for a group photo and the thief took Matt’s helmet,” United States Auto Club (USAC) Executive Vice President of Operations Jason Smith tweeted.
“The fans in Beijing, China are excellent and really embraced SST,” the SST Twitter posted. “One bad incident doesn’t speak for the masses.”
The next scheduled race on the SST circuit also takes place in China: the FB Life Festival on October 6–7.
Featured image courtesy of Stadium Super Trucks