Outdoing Evel Knievel
Extreme action sportsman of Nitro Circus fame, Travis Pastrana, recently paid tribute to one of his idols, the legendary Evel Knievel, by re-creating three of Knievel’s biggest stunts. On a motorcycle similar to what Knievel himself rode, Travis set out to jump over 52 crushed cars, 16 Greyhound buses and, as a grand finale, pull off the infamous Caesars Palace fountain jump. With thousands of fans watching in Las Vegas and even more watching the live broadcast on the History Channel, he cleared all three in convincing fashion. This simultaneously paid tribute to Knievel and cemented him as an action sports legend.
With his star-spangled leather suit and flowing cape, Evel Knievel was one of the most popular motorcycle daredevils ever. He set a number of records throughout his career. Stuntman and X Games championship gold medallist Travis Pastrana completed these three record-setting jumps on Sunday 8 July.
Pastrana tackled some of Evel Knievel’s most iconic jumps; some of which Knievel did not complete. Clad in a replica of Knievel’s famous white leather jumpsuit on a scorching Sunday night in Las Vegas, Pastrana made history.
One of Knievel’s most notorious failed stunts was his attempt to jump the fountains in front of Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Knievel came down short. He later said his Triumph 650 suddenly lost power on the take-off. He hit the edge of the landing ramp and tumbled into the Dunes car park, breaking his pelvis, femur, hip, wrist and both ankles.
The Caesars fountain jump has been done since - notably by Knievel’s son Robbie in 1989. But all the successful attempts have been done with lightweight motocross bikes, rather than the big, heavy Triumph and Harley-Davidson XR750 flat-trackers Knievel rode because they were what he could get for free.
Pastrana set himself the goal of successfully jumping the fountains on an equivalent bike to those ridden by Knievel. In this case it was an Indian Scout FTR750, which weighs about 154kg, 17kg more than Knievel’s customised XR750.
Before that, on the same day, Pastrana took on the legend’s two most successful jumps. These are his 1973 leap over 50 stacked cars at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and his 1975 jump over 14 Greyhound buses near Cincinnati, Ohio.
Pastrana set up the car and bus jumps in the huge service area behind the Planet Hollywood Resort and did all his practice jumps on his usual dirt bike because the big Indian street-bike was unsuitable as a jumper.
On the day, however, with the luxury of a long run-up, Pastrana successfully jumped 52 crushed cars on the Indian - a distance of 43,58 metres - and followed that with a 58-metre leap over 16 buses.
Then, accompanied by a police escort, he rode the jump bike down the Las Vegas Strip to Caesars Palace, pulling burnouts and wheelies along the way and even stopping to exchange high-fives with fans.
The fountains jump was actually the lowest and shortest of the three, but by far the most difficult and dangerous because the run-up was less than 61 metres. After just one speed run, he revved the 750cc Indian up to 10 000rpm and dumped the clutch in second gear.
The jump was perfect, the landing tight but successful and Pastrana had done what he had set out to do - fulfil Evel Knievel’s promise never to leave a jump unfinished, albeit 50 years later.
Information: Nitro Circus, IOL Motoring
The jump that Knievel did not finish - over the foundain at Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas.
Glory days - Evel Knievel.
Three successful and dramatic jump stunts in a day for Travis Pastrana.