Maxxis Highest Air 2014
High, higher, highest – that’s the basic idea behind the MAXXIS Highest Air competition. This particular side-contest at NIGHT of the JUMPS has been entertaining fans in the arena and watching at home on TV or computer monitor for the past 14 years.
In contrast to the complex and highly technical evaluation system used to award the trophies in the main freestyle competition, only one criterion applies here, namely which rider can clear the bar at its highest setting. The motorcycle high jump has been sponsored by international tire manufacturer Maxxis for as long as most people can remember.
The MAXXIS Highest Air competition first became a league competition in the context of NIGHT of the JUMPS / FIM Freestyle MX World Championship in 2012. So far, Massimo Bianconcini has always emerged as top dog at the end of the campaign. This year too, contestants at each of the world championship events have been trying to accumulate enough points to lift the trophy. And after the first five competitions, Massimo Bianconcini once again leads the way.
The opening round of the 2014 FIM Freestyle MX World Championship took place in Berlin, and in this first MAXXIS Highest Air competition of the new season, Germany’s Luc Ackermann slugged it out with the Italian record holder. When the bar reached 10.2 metres, 16-year-old Luc surpassed his own existing record by 70 centimetres, but it still wasn’t enough to dislodge the ‘Italion Stallion’ who cleared 10.5m on the final jump.
The second of the two German grands prix saw a rerun of the head-to-head between ‘Bianco’ and the German prodigy. Luc took the bar up to 10.7 metres, thus breaking his personal record of 24 hours earlier, but Bianconcini countered with a massive leap of his own – 11.1 metres – just 40 centimetres short of his own world record.
The third round of the FIM Freestyle MX World Championship brought the FMX elite to Gdansk for the Polish NIGHT of the JUMPS. ‘Bianco’ was looking to make it three wins in a row, but Jose Miralles had other ideas. The Spaniard cleared a height of 8.8 metres while the normally so consistent Italian champion was knocking the bar off not once but twice.
On 28th March, the FMX circus descended on the Sankt Jakobshalle in Basel. Joining the line-up was Swiss superstar Mat Rebeaud who was also intent on a comeback in the Maxxis Highest Air, an event he had triumphed in so many times in the past. Almost 10 years ago, Rebeaud set a world record of 11.4 metres, and that was over the steel ramp they still used in those days. This time round on the dirt ramp, however, he failed to progress. Instead, the evening belonged to Jose Miralles who cleared 9.2 metres to defeat world record holder Bianconcini for the second time in a row.
So going into the last round before the summer break, ‘El Loco’ and ‘Bianco’ had each banked two victories. The Italian led the overall standings because he had been runner-up twice whereas Miralles’s extra points had come from two third-place finishes.
Nevertheless, Bianconcini was fired up for the second Swiss grand prix, determined to make up for the ‘shame’ of two defeats already in the season. The reigning champion kept urging the marshals to raise the bar higher and higher, and when it reached 8.5, Miralles was forced to concede victory to ‘Bianco’.
This win in the last MAXXIS Highest Air contest before the recess consolidated Bianconcini’s lead in the overall standings. He is currently on 21 points ahead of Spain’s Jose Miralles on 15 points. Germany’s Luc Ackermann follows in third place on six points.
The second half of the MAXXIS Highest Air commences on 4th October at NIGHT of the JUMPS in Cologne. The pursuing pack will then go on the attack again, aiming to frustrate Bianconcini’s seemingly unstoppable onward march.
MAXXIS Highest Air 2014 Overall Ranking
1. Massimo Bianconcini ITA KTM 21 points
2. Jose Miralles ESP KTM 15 points
3. Luc Ackermann GER KTM 6 points
4. Mat Rebeaud SUI KTM 2 points
5. Maikel Melero ESP KTM 1 point