SAN DIEGO — What’s better than one daredevil flying through the sky on New Year’s Eve?
How about two.
Robbie Maddison and Levi LaVallee will make side-by-side attempts to break world records for the longest motorcycle and snowmobile jumps in the latest edition of the Red Bull: New Year. No Limits. series
The concurrent jumps will be over a 300-foot water gap at Embarcadero Marina Park on San Diego Bay.
LaVallee of Longville, Minn., was scheduled to attempt his snowmobile jump last New Year’s Eve in snowless San Diego but was seriously injured in a crash during training two weeks earlier.
Maddison wants to jump 400 feet, which would shatter the current record of 391 feet. LaVallee wants to break his record of 361 feet, set hours before his big wipeout.
LaVallee is glad to have another chance and thrilled that Maddison, an Australian who now lives in Temecula, Calif., will be his wingman.
"The main reason I’m coming back is just because it kind of feels unfinished to me," LaVallee said in a phone interview. ‘’We were so close and everything was so perfect. As crazy as a feat as a distance jump was, things were going so smoothly because we had the right people and we were dialed in. It would have been a high-five to that whole group because everybody was working their tail off. When we didn’t do it, it was such a letdown.”
Maddison kick-started the series in 2007 by jumping his motorcycle 322 feet in Las Vegas and followed it up a year later with a spectacular jump onto and then off of the 96-foot-tall Arc De Triomphe at Paris Las Vegas.
“Jumping long distances is a passion of mine, and I’m excited to come back for New Year’s Eve and sail over San Diego Harbor,” Maddison said in a statement. ‘’400 feet is my goal. It’s not all about getting the world record to me, it’s more about understanding this feat and the commitment ahead to achieving what most would consider an impossible jump.”
The ESPN broadcast will begin after the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, with the jumps set for midnight EST.
‘’It’s so cool being able to jump with Maddo,” LaVallee said. ‘’He is a legend as far as doing crazy stunts. He’s done the most insane things I’ve seen. It’s an honor just to be able to jump with him that night and share that night. It’s going to be a little weird looking over and, ‘Holy cow, that’s a guy way up here on a dirt bike.’ But it’s going to be pretty dang cool.”
Two weeks before last year’s jump, LaVallee was practicing at the speedway in Fontana when a problem with the carburetor caused his snowmobile to start turning end over end. He jumped off just before the sled slammed skis-first into the landing ramp.
‘’You look at it this way: I was going about 105 mph, I flew 360 feet through the air and jumped off. There were a lot of things that went right for it going so wrong,” he said. ‘’The sled never ran into me and I was able to kind of get into a good rolling technique as I was knocked out. It was a big crash. I’m very excited to be alive and kicking.”
LaVallee said he fractured his pelvis, broke several ribs and collapsed both lungs.
He was hospitalized for a week. He couldn’t fly because of the collapsed lungs, so Red Bull got him a motorhome and he was driven home to Minnesota. He said he was riding his snowmobile within three months.
LaVallee said his Polaris snowmobile will have an engine with electronic fuel injection, which should solve the problem that led to the crash.
Breaking a world record for a snowmobile jump without any snow in sight is one thing. Artificial turf covering the run-up path will provide the necessary grip for his snowmobile’s track to ensure maximum speed as he hits the takeoff ramp.
Doing it over a water gap is another.
‘’The jumping over water is going to be a different thing because we haven’t been able to do anything like that,” LaVallee said. ‘’The setup is supposed to be very similar to what we test on, so it shouldn’t be that bad. At the same time, when you look down, it’s a fair ways down to the water. The other thing you’re looking at is rocks, the riprap on the shore. You really, really don’t want to go short and end up in the rocks or the water. I just hope both Robbie and I have a successful jump.”