By Bunmi Adigun @Bunmi Adigun
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Videographer / Director: Team Kid KJ
Producer: Bunmi Adigun, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper
Known as Team Kid KJ, the team was formed in 2010 by monster truck enthusiast Tod Weston and his son, Kaid ‘KJ’ Jaret Olson-Weston, 14, who was the squad’s first member.
Noticing his son’s early passion for the extreme sport, Tod was determined to satisfy his need for speed with the creation of the team as well as encouraging other young people to get involved.
The team now boasts 20 full time members from across the United States and performs in more than 60 shows a year.
Tod said: “The idea to create the team was based upon KJ’s passion and interest. He has always loved self propelled vehicles. If it had a motor, KJ wanted to try it. He is a unique individual and in many instances a one of a kind.
"However his true love to engage in this motorsport was fuelled by his opportunity to express himself with a motor driven vehicle, his love for trucks, his love for four wheelers and what they can do.”
“His interest, coupled with the interest of other kids wanting to be like Kid KJ, moved us to offer the opportunity to other kids.”
Since its inception the team has gone from strength to strength and now boasts 10 monster trucks worth more than 3.5 million dollars, each capable of reaching speeds of up to 70mph.
With specialised parts needed for the smaller than average trucks, it costs on average of 150,000 dollars to maintain the team’s fleet.
Although small in size, the monster trucks can be used in the same way as their much bigger counterparts and the mini marvels are able to churn out more than 500 horsepower.
On average the trucks measure eight feet from tire to tire and weigh up to 5500lbs, which pales in comparison to normal sized trucks which tip the scale at around 10,000 lbs and are approximately 20 feet long.
Like many monster truck teams, safety of the driver is of paramount importance and is the reason why they ensure that all members take part in a mandatory safety training program.
Tod said: “As in any sport, there are risks. We have enjoyed a perfect safety record to date with no injuries. We use full safety gear including 5 Point Hooker Harness seat belt system, carbon fibre helmet with neck restraint, fire suit with safety gloves, socks and shoes and a full containment race seat. We have a complete training program for the drivers which includes truck safety, driving safety, track safety and driver safety.
“The trucks have full roll cages, fire safety systems (automatic fire extinguishing system), and an RII system (Remote Ignition Interrupter) that enables the truck to be “killed” by radio command.”
Despite the numerous safety precautions in place, and the extensive training the team members go through, doubts were still cast over the creation of the team due to the dangers of the sport.
It took a few years for other drivers to come round to the idea of kid drivers and so KJ is considered to be a pioneer for the sport.
Tod said: “In the early days when KJ was starting, the (other) drivers were not accepting nor could they understand. Certain promoters were anxious to see something different and exciting, others needed a track record.
"After the first few years, he was accepted. Like anything new, it takes education and proof of safety. We took our sport seriously and displayed professionalism in all aspects that would show that this is a serious commitment and not a kid’s toy.
"As much as it may be half the size of the full size monster trucks, we needed to show that we respected the machinery and the sport as a whole. Once they saw how well KJ could drive, the respect he had for the vehicle and the respect he had for the industry… a star was born.”
While the team have been performing at events around the United States spectators are still shocked to find out that drivers of these trucks are so young.
Tod said: “The initial reaction is disbelief. The kid drivers are in front of the trucks during pit party and they still ask, ‘Who drives it!’ Once they understand..they are wowed!
"When they perform, they are amazed that these kids have such talent, driving ability, and are fearless. The shock and awe is incredible.”