2008 XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship Round 6: Long Beach
New Champions Crowned
2008 was a test. Is Sportbike Freestyle a viable sport? Can XDL make the switch to a point series? Is the pool of professional riders deep enough to support a true championship? Will the sport develop? Does anyone care? The answer to those questions was a resounding “yes!” and Long Beach added that exclamation point.
Since its inception in 2006, XDL has helped grow stunt riding into the professional sport of sportbike freestyle. XDL introduced consistent judging criteria, professionally run events, ample prize money, raised safety standards and provided an environment that fostered growth in the sport through competition. All this was exemplified at XDL Round 4: Indianapolis, when the series ran with MotoGP in a spectacular downtown venue, in front of thousands of dedicated fans. XDL brought the sport to the most significant motorcycle event of the year and put sportbike freestyle on the map. Indy was the crowning achievement in a long transition from a street phenomenon to a professional sport of the highest caliber.
The allure of a true national championship based on a points system proved to be a major attraction to riders, making this transition possible. In 2008 XDL managed to attract a solid core of 15 riders that competed at every event. This was in addition to the 10 to 20 that joined in at every event on a local or regional basis. In total 65 riders scored points throughout the season and over 100 competed. According to series founder Randy Grube, rider participation far exceeded expectations, “We were hoping we’d get six to eight riders to commit to the series. In New York at the season opener, over 25 had signed up to do the season and a full 15 stuck it out all year. That is just totally amazing,” said Grube.
The six event schedule covered almost the entire country spaced out over only six months, making extensive travel a part of every competitor’s life. But it also increased the frequency with which the riders interacted with each other and drove the development of the sport by leaps and bounds. XDL Director of Competition Thomas Evans remarked, “Anyone that saw XDL in 2006 or even at the beginning of the 2008 season wouldn’t recognize the level of competition, dedication and innovation at the season finale in Long Beach,” then added, “Riders are now doing tricks that nobody thought were even possible a few months ago.”
Nobody exemplified this development better than newly crowned XDL Champion Nick Brocha and his Death Squad teammates Ernie Vigil, Lin Eshalom and Shin Kinoshita from Japan. Brocha essentially came out of nowhere at the end of 2007 with a new style driven by a dedication to practice and innovate. Vigil crashed heavily at the season opener in New York, breaking his collar bone, yet managed to fight has way back to fourth in the championship with good showings in Phoenix and Long Beach. Eshalom finished the season right on the tail of his two teammates in sixth, while Kinoshita, the lone Japanese entrant took tenth overall. With so much dedication displayed by so many riders it is difficult to single out any one individual but Shin Kinoshita probably deserves to be named “most dedicated” for the simple fact that he had to close his shop in Japan every time he came over and his journey to even the closest event was 6,000 miles one way.
At the Long Beach Finals, Kinoshita once again took the win for Circle Challenge, making it three in a row and firmly establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with. Shin also established an unofficial world record of 18 circle wheelie rotations on a sport bike in 30 seconds. This record is sure to be challenged soon by riders looking to make their mark on the sport. Nick Hernandez won Sickest Trick for the second time in 2008, while Aaron Bullo and Dan Jackson split the Freestyle Burnout prize, with Bullo blowing out his tire in under 30 seconds. Team Battle went to Death Squad for a well-choreographed and executed routine of precision riding.
Both the Individual Freestyle and Aprilia All Star Challenge point battles came down to the Long Beach event. Nick Brocha, Bill Dixon and Alex Flores were only 9 points apart for the Sportbike Freestyle Championship, while Dan Jackson and Bill Dixon were separated by only six points in the Aprilia All Star Challenge. With 45 points up for grabs for first place in each competition, it was still anyone's game.
In order for either Bill Dixon or Alex Flores to take the championship from Nick Brocha he had to make a big mistake. Instead Brocha managed to put on a flawless showing, taking both the top qualifying spot, as well as the win. Brocha commented that, "My expectations were that my friend Bill Dixon or I would be the champions, I'm happy it was me though." Bill Dixon left nothing on the table but couldn't match Brocha's execution. "I had a few problems with my run. The difference between first and second was execution. Nick is a phenomenal rider and he deserves it," admitted Dixon. Alex Flores put in a valiant effort but was unable to defend his 2007 crown. Flores commented, "I came out to win. I gave it my best but I came out 4th."
In the Aprilia All Star Challenge, which takes place on stock Aprilia SXV 4.5s, point leader, record holder and previously unbeaten Dan Jackson secured his 2008 crown with a solid second place finish. His main rival Bill Dixon still had plenty to smile about because XDL eligibility rules prevented Jackson from winning the SXV 4.5 awarded to the winner because he is already a member of the Aprilia Demo Team. So Dixon's second place point finish earned him a new Aprilia SXV 4.5.
Yes, 2008 was a test and XDL and its competitors showed that sportbike freestyle is a sport that is ready for prime time. 2009 should be even better.
2008 XDL Championship Series
|Individual Freestyle Top 5|
|XDL Final National Point Standings|
|2008 Aprilia All Star Challenge|