2011 Freestyle Motorcross Review
The world’s oldest and most extreme freestyle motocross series has produced many heroic battles this year that are worthy of the silver screen, particularly in the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship.
During the last few years, NIGHT of the JUMPS has witnessed the rise of many freestyle motocross icons. In 2011, it was the turn of several newcomers – Javier Villegas, Josh Sheehan, Maikel Melero and David Rinaldo – to be deified as freestyle motocross gods. As for Sheehan and Villegas, well, you could perhaps say they outshone everyone. But for the run-down on the 2011 world championship season, read on!
In contrast to previous years NIGHT of the JUMPS opened in Turin for the first time ever and not in Berlin. And it began with a fanfare; Remi Bizouard won the Italian world championship competition, proclaiming his return in impressive fashion. But reigning world champion Podmol did not even make the final.
Newcomers such as Javier Villegas, David Rinaldo and Maikel Melero gave a good account of themselves. The Chilean flew into second place, and Rinaldo and Melero tricked with plenty of style to reach the final. Jose Miralles and Bianconcini also began the year well. The Spaniard took third place, while Bianco just missed out on a podium in front of his home crowd.
The FMX World Championship circus then moved on to the German capital. Jose Miralles took the honours from Bizouard and Villegas on Day One. World champion Podmol hit back on the second day. The Czech rider won the third competition of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship, edging out Villegas and Bizouard.
Remi Bizouard took over the lead in the FMX World Championship with two podiums and a win, followed closely by Javier Villegas, who also claimed three podiums. Newcomer Melero showed incomparable style, jumping to the final in all three competitions.
The two Swiss Grand Prix then followed, and a new era in the history of the NIGHT of the JUMPS began. In 2011, Josh Sheehan first appeared on the world championship stage in Basel and nothing was ever the same again after that.
The Australian rider not only jumped a flawless Lazy Boy Flip, but also introduced 360 combos to the circuit. In addition, he pulled 1-Hand Take-off Tsunamis and much more out of the hat. He won both world championship competitions and put the European FMX top dogs in their place. Javier Villegas was the only rider to be unimpressed, showing his consistency by securing two more podium finishes, which gave him the overall lead in the championship standings.
Another newcomer appeared on the world championship schedule after the NIGHT of the JUMPS premiere in Turin. The Russian city of Penza provided the backdrop for rounds 6 and 7 of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship – again with Josh Sheehan and another two wins for Australia’s ‘wonder boy’. The outdoor track suited the FMX dominator from Down Under best and he secured the best possible result: four world championship starts, four wins. But Russia also proved to be the perfect playground for David Rinaldo.
The Frenchman showed Airplanes, 1-Hand Underflips and Double Seatgrab Backflips, which catapulted him into third place on the first day and second place on the second day. And Villegas? After a second place on Saturday, he missed the podium on Sunday for the first time in 2011, placed fourth. He wasn’t too upset about that, though; he went into the summer break leading the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship with 118 points, a good 18 points clear of Jose Miralles.
Remi Bizouard was still placed third in the world championship, but was beginning to wonder how it was all going to end. He did not reach the final on either of the two days in Russia, because he did not show his juiciest tricks – Cliffhanger and Ruler Flip. Podmol also had to settle for unfamiliar rankings. Fourth and seventh place are simply not good enough for a world champion, even if we accept that he was nursing an injury at the start.
Freestyle Motocross fans had to wait four months until the NIGHT of the JUMPS backflip fireworks exploded once more. The long summer break finally ended in mid-October when the FMX elite met for the eighth round of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship in Riga. World championship leader Javier Villegas made the best start to the second half of the season by taking a win on the day, showing Remi Bizouard and Josh Sheehan a clean pair of heels. Not only did that break Sheehan’s run of victories – a NIGHT of the JUMPS record of six consecutive wins – but the Chilean rider also bagged the podium top spot for the first time.
Then the world championship entourage traveled to Ostrava in the Czech Republic, but without Josh Sheehan, who had to undergo surgery on his shoulder and so missed the rest of the season. Normally, Podmol does really well in his home country, especially as he was celebrating his 100th appearance at the NIGHT of the JUMPS. But this time, things did not go his way at the CEZ Arena. First he crashed in training while attempting a tandem back flip with his brother, and then he crashed into the perimeter board on his penultimate jump in the final to finish in sixth place, posting his worst result ever in his home town.
Yet spectators still had every reason to cheer, because Petr Pilat was still flying the flag for the Czech Republic. He jumped into third place with tricks including Backflip Tsunami and 1-Hand-Take-off Backflip and was only outdone by Javier Villegas and Remi Bizouard. Villegas put in a strong run, but had to make way for a well-deserved win by Bizouard. He had switched to a 450cc Honda in the summer and was back on form with Ruler Flip, Cliffhanger Flip and Hart Attack Flip. Brice Izzo returned after a long absence through injury to secure his first ride in a final during 2011, performing with much style as he executed Miniflips.
Just one week later, the return of the NIGHT of the JUMPS to Poland could not have been more spectacular. Javier Villegas (CHL) and Remi Bizouard (FRA) sought to outdo each other with amazing tricks in the tenth and eleventh round of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship at the ERGO Arena in Gdansk. The Frenchman triumphed over Villegas in two breathtaking finals and thus preserved his slender chance in the world championship. Poland was a great venue too for the other riders; for the first time at the NIGHT of the JUMPS, Jose Miralles executed a Saran Wrap Flip and Maikel Melero a Doublegrab Flip, but that was not enough for either of them to dislodge Petr Pilat from his third place. The Red Bull rider secured a second podium finish in the last three contests.
In contrast to previous years, the final round of the season was not outdoors in sunny Brazil, but indoors in Arena Sofia, Bulgaria. The official coronation of the FIM Freestyle MX World Champion took place in front of a sell-out crowd and the greatest media scrum of journalists and photographers in the history of the series. Javier Villegas maintained the upper hand. Anyway, in effect he only needed to ride onto the ramp in qualifying to grab three points and secure the title. The arrival of big-time freestyle motocross in Bulgaria heralded another first, with the Freestyle Motocross World Championship going to a contender from outside Europe – Javier Villegas from the continent of South America.
2011 was the most exciting season ever in the history of the NIGHT of the JUMPS / FIM Freestyle MX World Championship. It may even be showing the shape of things to come for many riders; the old guard in the NIGHT of the JUMPS is being ushered out, so it would seem. Former top dogs and veterans – Podmol, Jose Miralles, Bianconcini and Fabian Bauersachs – had to expand their trick repertoire during the year and dig deep in order to prevail against newcomers such as Josh Sheehan, Javier Villegas, Maikel Melero and David Rinaldo.
One or two of them did not give in without first putting up a fight, but they had to admit defeat in the end. Remi Bizouard, though, appeared to be the only one to be spurred on by the new blood, fighting it out with Villegas in a thrilling duel for the world championship. Although he lost ultimately, the Frenchman can be comforted by the fact that he is runner-up to the champion and clinched the UEM Freestyle MX World Championship.