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2008 XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship Round 4: Indianapolis
Colton Gets Win. Points Race Tightens.
The inaugural XDL Indy ran as part of the MotoGP weekend from September 11 to 14, 2008. On what was among the biggest motorcycle weekends of the year, XDL did its part to show that sportbike freestyle is well on its way to becoming a core part of the motorcycle industry.
Set in downtown Indianapolis on a portion of North Street that intersects the Indiana War Memorial, XDL put on two days of blockbuster competition in front of huge crowds. Aaron Colton took the win in the Individual Freestyle division, with Nick Brocha and Bill Dixon close on his heels. Alex Flores suffered a crash during his warm up and could only manage an 8th place finish as a result. This has tightened the points race at the front and after adjusting for the buy, which allows riders to drop their lowest score, only 18 points separate the top four. With a maximum of 46 points up for grabs at each event, the top is locked in a dead heat and everyone down to 8th place Luke Emmons still has a mathematical shot at the title.
Despite a favorable audience reaction, getting XDL involved in the event was not an easy task. Series founder Randy Grube explains by saying, “Getting XDL to Indy was a lot of work, especially since the venue was a closed off street,” before adding, “In the end it was well worth it because we were able to execute on a whole new level and show the fans, as well as the motorcycle community, what XDL and sportbike freestyle are capable of,” said Grube.
Many riders echoed this sentiment after the competition, expressing that it had been the best stunt event ever. Grube responded by saying, “We put a lot of effort into making the venue itself more fun by having the Cycle Pilot wheelie machine and mobile dyno on site.” He then added, “The Aprilia All Star Challenge and Aprilia Demo team also added to the overall entertainment value.”
'...we were able to execute on a whole new level and show the fans...'
Aprilia joined the XDL fold in August with this event being the debut of their corporate involvement. The competition formerly known as Target Stoppie was converted into a spec format and renamed the Aprilia All Star Challenge. All competitors now use a factory supplied Aprilia SXV 4.5, rather than their own bikes and must fulfill a difficult skills course in the shortest amount of time possible. The first task is to complete a rolling burnout through a set of cones. A one second time penalty is applied for each cone that is hit. On the run back to the timekeeper, the rider must hoist the SXV into a wheelie and scrape the tail of the bike for a one second time bonus.
Next the rider circles around the time keeper and rides down the track holding a 100 foot stoppie and landing it on a target marked on the ground for another one second time bonus. Finally, the rider turns back into the slalom course and rides another rolling burnout back to the timekeeper. Dan Jackson took the inaugural win with a time of 28.53 seconds. Participation is limited to only the top riders. In 2008, the top rider after Indy, Phoenix and Long Beach will get to keep a brand new Aprilia SXV 4.5.
XDL Director of Competition, Thomas Evans discussed his impressions of the event, “The guys loved riding the Aprilias. As we develop the competition, it is going to be something really great to set some standards for 2008 and beyond.”
The event itself started out under clear skies on Thursday but weather was a factor all weekend long. The rain started to sprinkle on Thursday without any major impact on night practice but Friday was a different story. It began raining in the morning and intensified all day to the point where conditions were torrential by the time competition started. With about one third of the riders remaining, Mother Nature finally took mercy on the field and the downpour subsided. From then on it started clearing but rain preparation still had a big impact on the qualifying results. Aaron Colton used tire warmers to ensure consistent grip for the bike throughout his run and sweat bands taped to his cages to allow him to wipe off the bottom of his feet. His efforts paid off with a number one qualifying spot for the main event.
The Individual Freestyle competition got started under clearing skies, in front of packed stands. The Arlington High School JROTC presented the colors, followed by the national anthem and the mood among the 15 qualifiers was serious. Everyone wanted to win the biggest competition of the year. In the end, Red Bull rider Aaron Colton did what it took to win. “It feels awesome, long deserved and redeeming,” exclaimed a jubilant Colton, before adding, “It feels like I accomplished exactly what I came to XDL Indianapolis to do.”
Colton credits part of his win with his unusual training regimen: “I took a different approach. I had fun. I did a lot of road racing, I did trials stuff, did a little bit of motocross and then I really put the pedal to the metal the last two weeks and finally did a lot of the stunt stuff.” He also changed up the execution of his run from going straight up and down and inserting tricks, to crisscrossing the competition surface, linking tricks in quick succession. Colton explained, “I didn’t have a run planned but I knew what elements I had to incorporate to win.”
To top it off, Colton managed to garner an almost perfect execution score of 19.5, surpassed only by Joe Dryden’s perfect 20 at the 2007 XDL East Coast Eliminator. Still, Colton thinks he can still get a lot better, which is a scary thought if you are the competition. “I’m not at the level of riding I want to be at and I won’t be there for another 3-5 years. That has nothing to do with the tricks, but the control of the motorcycle,” he said.
Points leader Nick Brocha also had expectations of winning but ended up in second due to his unfamiliarity with the wet conditions. Brocha describes his performance, “If there is any event I should have won based on my training, it was this one. I came to this event prepared, more so than at other events and I wanted to debut four new tricks but then the rain threw off my game and destroyed my confidence.”
Third place Bill Dixon felt he finished right where he should have based on the riding and admitted he could have done better as well. “In my final run I definitely didn’t ride my best, I wasn’t riding like myself. I didn’t hit all my tricks on point like I normally would,” explained a disappointed Dixon. He is still right in the thick of the championship race, which is where he hopes to stay. “I want be in the top three, I want to be in the top spot.” Although the short riding surface didn’t quite match his normal style, he still had high praise for XDL Indy: “This is probably my favorite venue of any that I’ve been to. It was right in the city, with MotoGP going on - it doesn’t get any better than that.”
2007 Champion Alex Flores looked set to take the fight to Colton until he crashed in a nasty high side during his warm up and broke the handlebars on his bike. In a testament to the dedication of this champion and the camaraderie amongst the athletes, three riders immediately offered Flores their bike and he set off on Rick Hart’s steed to take home a valiant 8th place.
The support competitions featured some unfamiliar winners and the unveiling of new tricks. Japanese pro Shin Kinoshita finally won Circle Challenge after he had been knocking on the door the last few times. Unfortunately he didn’t make the main event but still holds a top 15 spot in the national rankings. Sickest Trick was won by Jacob Bardwell for doing a back flip from a Christ on to the seat of his motorcycle. Darius Khashabi made a guest appearance at XDL and took home Freestyle Burnout with one of the most radical smoke shows of the year. Bill Dixon and Destiny won the Tandem competition, which has almost become customary these days,
Overall, XDL Round 4 at Indy was a well-executed competition in front of a great crowd on an action-packed weekend. Thomas Evans summed it up best by saying: “I honestly think this is the best stunt riding competition ever. Period.” He should know. He’s been to most of them.
2008 XDL Championship Series
|Individual Freestyle Top 5|
|XDL National Point Standing Top 5 After 4 Rounds (including “bye”)|
Complete results can be seen at XDLshow.com