Motocross

Ring Sting

Ring Sting

THE IFMXF Pro Tour heads to Leon, Spain, for its latest stop-off where a bull ring style event awaits for the IFMXF regulars with the exception of KTM’s Sebastian Wolter who’s otherwise engaged.
Local rider Nico Ortuno takes THE IFMXF Pro Tour heads to Leon, Spain, for its latest stop-off where a bull ring style event awaits for the IFMXF regulars with the exception of KTM’s Sebastian Wolter who’s otherwise engaged.
Local rider Nico Ortuno takes Busty’s place and joins the line-up of Drake McElroy, Nick ‘Franko’ Franklin, Ailo Gaup, Oystein Kjorstad, Frederik Johansson, Fabian Bauersachs, Benoit Milot and – of course – Laurel and Hardy (that’s Chris Brock and Gary Taylor).
As usual for an IFMXF event, the qualifying runs are first. With the layout of the course (riders have to leave the ring through tunnels and come charging back in to clear the three gaps set between 18 and 20 metres with a smaller superkicker set at 10 metres) the runs don’t really flow like a normal arena event – but the action still comes thick and fast.
The highlights of the quali round are Kjorstad’s sterilizer, Franko’s holy-man (no handed Superman), DMC’s entire run (he’s just sooo smooth) and Gaup’s double nacs. The Brits do enough to qualify in fifth and sixth behind Kjorstad, Gaup, DMC and Franko who takes the highest score. Surprisingly, IFMXF Pro tour points-leader Bauersachs doesn’t qualify for the finals and makes the long trek back to his home in Rodental, Germany, a little earlier than he anticipated.
The whip contest’s up next and a new format is used. The six riders are split into three pairs – McElroy Vs Franklin, Milot Vs Kjorstad and Taylor Vs Johansson – with the best whipper from each pairing transferring to a three-man final. DMC knocks Franko out of the contest and Milot easily outwhips Oystein but the Taylor Vs Johansson duel is much tougher to judge – they’re both totally sideways and looking smooth.
Taylor finally gets the nod from the judges and goes head-to-head with Milot and McElroy in the finals. There’s a little bit of controversy as the judges decide Taylor’s whips aren’t as good as Benoit’s or Drake’s – despite the crowd cheering the loudest for Gary. Taylor’s disappointed with third behind the North Americans. "I reckon I should have won that one really," says Gary – but McElroy takes the win and the first of the evening’s trophies.
Taylor gets the chance to take his revenge in the next of the evening’s contests – the Highest Air – and he lines up alongside Brock, McElroy, Milot and local hero Ortuno. All the riders get two practice attempts before the contest starts and Brock manages to throw it all away on one of his. "It was beyond vertical and totally unsavable," reckons Brock. Luckily, he’s got time to partially straighten his bike out before the contest starts properly and after his crash the crowd are really getting behind him on this one.
The riders easily clear the lower heights and before long the bar is set at a massive six metres. Benoit fails to clear the this level and is first rider out. Taylor’s next to knock the bar down at 7.9m and McElroy can’t get any higher either but Brock and Ortuno both easily get over the top and land safely to the applause of the massive crowd.
The bar’s then lifted to 8.1m and Brock again easily clears it but Ortuno clatters the bar to the ground on both of his attempts, handing the win to Chris who’s more than happy to take home the trophy and the wad of Euros that comes with it. "I always do all right in these," says Chris. "But I didn’t really expect to win it – especially not after crashing on the practice run." Chris will have a short amount of time to fix his bent bike before the finals start but seeing as he’s running second behind Taylor he won’t have long.
Taylor rides his KTM out into the bull ring to start off his finals run and immediately gets down to business, throwing out a succession of hardcore tricks with the usual amount of Taylor flair. But the arena staff have closed one of the doors to the passages that the riders use as a run-up to the ramp and this breaks Gary’s concentration. Eventually the door’s re-opened but the damage has already been done to the flow of Taylor’s run. Gary still scores a decent 223 despite the difficulties and takes his position in the leader’s hot-seat.
Running next is the Brockstar on his hastily fixed Dixon Yamaha but he only manages a few jumps before deciding that his bike’s too damaged to continue. "The bars are bent and the clamps are twisted," says Chris. "There’s no point in risking it really, I’ll just have to settle for sixth." So Gary’s safe in the leader’s chair for now but Kjorstad is up next and he’s looking confident.
Oystein starts his run with a tsunami and backs it up with a rock-solid, double-grab Indian-air and loads more killer tricks before ending his run with a Shaolin bar-hop to sterilizer. The crowd lap it up and so do the judges who give the lanky Suzuki rider a score of 227 and he takes the lead with three riders left to go.
It’s Gaup who runs next and the Norwegian superstar starts his run in fine style with a massive rock-solid over the 20 metre gap. He backs it up with some excellent double-nacs, a tsunami, a McMetz, some double-grab variations and then finishes with the trick of all tricks – a perfectly clean back-flip. The crowd go wild and even Ailo’s competitors have to admit it’s the perfect end to a good run. The judges agree too and Ailo takes the lead with a whopping score of 283.
If anyone can steal Ailo’s thunder it’s pretty-boy Drake McElroy who unleashes his full arsenal of tricks on the Leon crowd. Drake’s riding is as awe-inspiring as ever and everything he does is executed perfectly and with his own little twist – it’s easy to see why he’s the freestyler’s freestyler. But the judges don’t have as much enthusiasm for Drake’s riding skills as I do and they award him just 271 – so Gaup’s still in control with just Franko to go.
"It’s more or less impossible to beat the back-flip," reckons Nick. "I’m just gonna go out there and give it me best shot." And it’s easy to see that he means business right from the off. While he may lack the super-smooth style of McElroy, Franko executes the most technical tricks around and the crowd are really getting into it. As Nick’s run comes to its end Gaup and the Spanish crowd on the edge of their seats waiting for the judges’ final decision.
The pressure builds and after what seems like hours the score is finally flashed up…273 – 10 points short of the win. Ailo’s done enough to take his second major IFMXF win of the year. "I can’t believe it," he says. "I’ve been working really hard to learn the flip and some other new tricks and it’s all paid off."