Road Hammer veers into Ice Racer Showdown

Clayton Bellamy Ice Racer ShowdownClayton Bellamy’s entire career has been about “change in direction” – literally, and in all ways the word “literally” is misused.

From singer-songwriting solo and country-rocking with his band the Road Hammers, he was called to be an announcer on CISN country radio, though he no radio experience whatsoever, lasted about two-and-a-half years with reported good ratings and was let go because, “I was told they needed to change direction,” Bellamy says. No hard feelings.

And now – in another wild veer down the track that is life – he’s the host of the new CMT reality series, Ice Racer Showdown, making its premiere Sunday, Oct. 18 at 10 pm CT/ET. It’s a game show pitting hapless non-professional drivers against one another in a grueling race madly off in all directions in souped-up dune buggies on a road literally made of ice in the dead of the great Canadian prairie winter.

Bellamy’s job is simple.

“I get to make fun of everyone’s terrible driving,” he says.

A self-described “gearhead,” Bellamy fondly remembers as a kid racing dirt bikes around the fields near hometown Bonnyville, or on “anything with an engine I could get inside.” His dad was a motorcycle mechanic. Bellamy’s experience with things that go vroom helped him get the gig.

He says, “If you’re a fan of shows like Wipeout or Canada’s Worst Drivers, if you like getting laughs at other people’s expense, you’ll like this show.”

The series was filmed last year on Red Deer Lake near Wetaskiwin, where they practically cleared the whole lake off to create three different tracks. Judges include a real race car champion, Jorge Dascollas, and Michelle Kelly, a champion Olympic skeleton racer (an event similar to the luge), but also Edmonton funnyman Donovan Workun of the Atomic Improv company. And they all dress like Yukon Mounties, so you know the show is going for a light touch not to be confused with the rather heavier Ice Road Truckers.

From left: Judges Jorge Dascollas, Michelle Kelly and Donovan Workun

From left: Judges Jorge Dascollas, Michelle Kelly and Donovan Workun

Bellamy, in his road band experience, had a close call himself on the way up to Grand Prairie, driving a van pulling a trailer full of gear down the hill to the river on glare ice, “and watching the trailer start passing the van going down that hill,” he says. “I stepped on the gas and pulled it out, and grew some white hairs on my head.”

Stepped on the gas?! That’s what you do, apparently. He knew what to do or we wouldn’t be talking.

So while Ice Racer Showdown may look dangerous (and cold), the contestants are well-padded and helmeted, the vehicles equipped with roll cages and a thick wad of insurance waivers.

CMT has been good at making reality show stars of country singers. Beverley Mahood became well-known as the host of Pick a Puppy – how can you go wrong? – while Bonnyvillian rootsman Mike Plume (on whose couch Bellamy once slept) wound up a in a balmier climate as the host of Mississippi Snake Grabbers. Bellamy, meanwhile, toils in the frozen north.

He laughs, “I think I got the short end of the stick on that one.”