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Ryan’s High Horsepower Hijinks

By: Brad Bentley

Brad Bentley

A University of Alabama graduate with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Bentley spent 15 years as a trucking Publisher before becoming the Editorial Director for Randall-Reilly's Recruiting Media division.

Behind the scenes of truck racer Mike Ryan’s SIZE MATTERS 2 video shoot

freightlinersMike Ryan’s ‘day job’ for the past 30 years has been a professional Hollywood stunt driver and stunt coordinator, but he also pilots a Freightliner Cascadia racing machine in hill climb competitions. In addition to multiple wins in the Big Rig class at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Mike currently holds the record at the Mount Washington “Climb To The Clouds” event. 

Two years ago, Ryan added “Internet Sensation” to his resume, thanks to a semi truck drifting video that was filmed in Southern California at El Toro, a decommissioned Marine Corps air station that sits on 4,682 acres. Ryan dubbed the video SIZE MATTERS and posted it on YouTube. It was an instant hit and has now generated more than 1.8 million views.

Since SIZE MATTERS was launched with very little promotion, Ryan said he is amazed that the video has reached that many people. He shouldn’t be too shocked though, as “Gymkhana” driving videos have proven quite popular. For example, Ken Block’s Gymkhana 5 has 59 million views and G-6 has more than 16 million.

When asked how he came up with the name SIZE MATTERS, Ryan said it was originally a poke at Block – but quickly added that it was out of pure respect. “He has phenomenal cars and has developed some crazy skills as a driver and as a marketer,” Ryan stated. “My challenge to Block was to try doing it in a rear wheel drive 10,300 pound big rig. Lots of people can hang it out in factory backed Pro Rally cars.”

Ryan says he is over the double entendre of SIZE MATTERS but hasn’t come up with a better title. “To me, the name doesn’t matter as much as doing a good job making a fun and exciting video to watch,” Ryan stated. “Producing and co-writing projects with friend and Director Bailey Kobe satisfies our interests as a film makers and creating and choreographing the stunt scenes and then driving them is an awesome experience.”

Blown away by the way fans responded to SIZE MATTERS, Ryan felt like he owed it to them to make another semi truck drifting video. After creating a concept for the video, the Port Of Long Beach was chosen as the site for filming SIZE MATTERS 2 on February 6-7.

Mike Ryan’s race truck and the Castrol 240SX drift car approaching a Freightliner Cascadia truck and trailer before drifting into a set of shipping containers to avoid a collision.

Mike Ryan’s race truck and the Castrol 240SX drift car approaching a Freightliner Cascadia truck and trailer before drifting into a set of shipping containers to avoid a collision.

I was granted exclusive trucking media access to be on location for the video shoot. Here’s a description of how the days unfolded and what viewers will see in the final video:

The scene opens at sunrise in the busy seaport and cuts to a container ship being unloaded by massive towering cranes. A close up on the operator reveals a strikingly attractive woman at the controls, setting a black sea container on the ground.

The two ground spotters hear a really loud rumbling kind of sound that neither one has ever heard, revving inside. Their curiosity overcomes them. This shouldn’t be; so with some trepidation, they open the doors and become engulfed in the tire smoke rolling out. A Nissan 240 SX drift car that is wrapped in Castrol-Triumph livery leaps out of the box followed by Mike Ryan’s Freightliner, hot on the SX’s tail. Ryan’s race truck makes a distinctive whining noise thanks to a Banks Straight Water Methanol Injection System as it screams into action.

One of the spotters is caught up and ends up holding onto the back of the truck. Terrified, with his steel shoes sparking, he holds on for dear life. A car is coming directly at him. He lets go in an even higher level of panic and ends up sliding into the arms of the female spotter who apparently has more than a casual interest in him. They share a moment.

Meanwhile, these teammates playfully attack the shipping yard and drift around stacks of sea containers, semi trucks, cranes, and all of the items one would expect at the port. Their high performance driving skills are on display as they barely miss these huge objects, and homage is paid to vehicles themselves and the familiar branding that covers them. This is the kind of excitement and skill that could only come from Mike Ryan and his stunt team – and I witnessed them at their finest.

One of the lighter moments on the set occurred when the tail wing of Ryan’s truck barely clips one of the containers during a “do-si-do” drifting sequence with the 240SX. When the director asked what happened, Ryan responded on the walkie-talkie, “I can control the truck much better once I am completely sideways!”

In the closing stunt sequence, Mike Ryan jumps his Freightliner truck over a line of Smart Cars. In the process, he made history - as this is believed to be the first ramp-to-ramp jump successfully completed by a big rig.  Photo Credit: Dailyn Matthews

In the closing stunt sequence, Mike Ryan jumps his Freightliner truck over a line of Smart Cars. In the process, he made history – as this is believed to be the first ramp-to-ramp jump successfully completed by a big rig.
Photo Credit: Dailyn Matthews

Despite a few mechanical issues and rain delays courtesy of Mother Nature, Ryan capped off the action with a ramp-to-ramp jump through water (from a busted fire hydrant) over multiple parked Smart Cars. Powered by 2,400 hp from his Detroit Diesel engine, with the added boost of a Banks Super Turbo, Ryan made the jump with plenty of room to spare. Always the professional, he pulled off the stunt perfectly in one take.

In the final video, after the action is completed, it will cut to a scene where an arcade game with a crane-like claw drops a model of Mike Ryan’s race truck into the pile of other toys in the game. The closing shot is of a 6-year old girl’s face looking over her dad’s shoulder as he carries her home from a night at the arcade.

SIZE MATTERS 2 has everything an adrenaline junkie would want, but Ryan also understands the importance of making an emotional connection with the viewer. He feels the same way when talking about his sponsors – saying that while shooting the video was a “rush”, it was really about pride.

“To have Freightliner as a sponsor for 17 years and Michelin for 15 has given me tremendous opportunities that include earning Castrol Oil and Triumph Motorcycles as new sponsors for 2014. Doing the videos is as good or maybe even better payback to them than racing,” Ryan added. “I hope that fans recognize our race program exists only through our sponsors’ support and consider this when they purchase trucks, tires, and products built by the manufacturers who support us.”

You can see the benefits of all of those products in action when SIZE MATTERS 2 debuts at the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, KY on March 27. Freightliner Trucks, who has one of the largest booths at the truck show, will play SIZE MATTERS 2  in their overhead theater. The video will also be launched that day on YouTube and Vimeo.

Ryan says he has every reason to believe that SIZE MATTERS 2 can generate 5 million video views. After experiencing the high horsepower hijinks on display at the Port Of Long Beach, I have no doubt Ryan will accomplish his goal.

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