The eleven best riders contesting this year’s FXM World Championship lined up for the last Grand Prix event of the campaign in Arena Armeec Sofia.
The tension between the two main contenders was palpable as early as free practice. While David Rinaldo (FRA) was able to rehearse his routine under no pressure at all, Libor Podmol (CZE) was forced to squeeze in a private session after the logistics people delivered his bike too late.
Fortunately, this upset did not appear to affect his performance in qualifying. Both Podmol and Rinaldo successfully executed a selection of their best tricks, booking themselves second and third place respectively for the final. Following up were Petr Pilat, Remi Bizouard and Dany Torres, but the winner of the preliminary round was Maikel Melero who showed that he was once again in outstanding form after his surprise triumph on the previous world championship weekend in Liberec.
After the intensity of the qualifying heat, fans sat back in their seats to enjoy the somewhat different challenge presented by the Maxxis Highest Air and Rockwell Best Whip contests. Massimo Bianconcini emerge victorious in both, first clearing the bar at a lofty 8.7 metres and then putting on a display of the most audacious whips.
Going first into the final, Dany Torres was determined to show that he was back to his best after a long injury-induced lay-off. Unfortunately, he lost his way after a dead sailor on his third jump but carried on for the sake of the crowd. Next up was the (still) reigning world champion, Remi Bizouard, who was determined to get back on the podium, and his Hart Attack and Cliffhanger flips did indeed earn him third spot. Petr Pilat would dearly have liked to displace him and hoped that his Stripper Flip and Tsunami Flip would be good enough. Much to the displeasure of the spectators, however, the judges saw it differently and placed him fourth.
Next up was the keenly anticipated showdown between David Rinaldo and Libor Podmol. The Frenchman could have opted for safety first and settled for a result that was within two places of Podmol, but he wasn’t prepared to sell the audience short and reeled off his entire repertoire of tricks, including the Doublegrab Flip. But after the double-up, he crashed into the barrier at high speed and crushed his hand, which meant a trip to hospital and rather put a dampener on the proceedings. Rinaldo’s misfortune seems to have been weighing on Podmol’s mind as he went into his run which was punctuated by minor errors and eventually culminated in a dead sailor in the double-up. And with that, the outcome of the world championship was decided: a maiden title for David Rinaldo. However, the ceremony had to take place without him, so his father was drafted in to receive the trophy on his behalf.
But that wasn’t the end of Bulgarian Grand Prix. Maikel Melero was the final rider of the evening to take to the track. His victory in Liberec seems to have spurred him on to even greater heights as he performed all the flips and triple combos that are his hallmark and even pulled off a Double Seatgrab Flip in the double-up. The judges had no hesitation in awarding him top marks, thus allowing the Spaniard to celebrate his second NIGHT of the JUMPs win.
The NIGHT of the JUMPs series now takes a Christmas break. The new season starts on the weekend of 17th/18th January 2014 with the first two rounds of the European Freestyle Motocross Championship in the context of NIGHT of the JUMPs in the Austrian city of Linz.