Never before has a South African seen the spectacle that is Red Bull X-Fighters, well not on South African soil anyway. The last Red Bull X-Fighters to hit the African continent was some years ago under the shadows of the sphinx in Egypt, but this time it was the gem in the African crown’s turn, as the tour headed to South Africa. A more scenic and historic location could not have been chosen for the SA tour finale, as the Union Buildings in Pretoria, located in the country’s capital, hosted the Red Bull X-Fighters event, which is the 50th edition since its inception in 2007.
Housing the offices of the President of the Republic of South Africa and forming the official seat of the South African government, the Sir Herbert Baker designed Union Buildings have seen much history in their 101 years of existance. The most notable of these being the place of inauguration of South Africa’s most infamous leader Nelson Mandela or Tata Madiba as he is lovingly called by South Africans.
After the previous round in Munich, no-one could dream of the Red Bull X-Fighters crew topping the floating FMX park of that event. But, they took it to another level, by making the biggest jumps on an FMX park since it was held at Glen Helen, California in the US. 12,000 tons of locally mined soil was used to construct the temporary FMX park, making use of the usually insane obstacles to get the athletes the height, speed and trajectory to pull off the sickest aerial acrobatics known to mankind.
Jason Moriarty, a South African by birth who is now the head judge for the World Tour and an all round FMX stalwart, had this to say about bringing this event home: “For me, seeing Red Bull X-Fighters finally come to South Africa is a realization of a 13 year old dream. The fact that the biggest, best and most progressive FMX contest is being held here on home soil is incredibly special.”
Leading up to the event, all eyes were on tour favourite Levi Sherwood, from New Zealand, aboard his KTM to take the series’ battle to the line with Aussie Josh Sheehan. Everything was going to plan until the qualifiers where Levi tried to throw it down early and put Sheeny under pressure in the main event. This was not meant to be, as during Levi’s run, the wind shifted his bike causing it to be crossed up after a huge shaolin flip and he couldn’t correct the bike, as it highsided him into the dirt. Levi would not be able to compete and this left the door wide open for Sheeny to take the win and the tour victory too. A KTM rider made it to the final in the form of Spanish pilot, Dany Torres, who lost out to Sheehan in the final round.
A dejected Sherwood said in a pre main event interview: “Obviously I am gutted; the minute I hit the dirt and felt the pain in my ankle, I knew that the 2014 tour was lost. I will come out stronger for next year.”
In closing, as a KTM fan, with orange blood flowing through the veins, the fact that Levi didn’t win, was a massive blow. But after watching these modern gladiators duke it out, Freestyle MX is so much more than motorcycles and manufacturers. It’s about gymnasts on motorcycles weighing in excess of 100kg, and throwing them around like push bikes. The heroes are the riders. The motorcycles are merely a tool to get airborne. With that said, the KTMs sure look good upside down.
Photos: Red Bull Content Pool