Event organizers are expecting massive crowds on Saturday when the Red Bull X-Fighters competition heads to the Brazilian capital of Brasilia for the second stop on the 2011 tour: The event is free and open to the public, and it could be crazy (action sports events in Brazil always are). And while some of the biggest names in freestyle motocross will be competing, those teeming masses will be cheering loudest for four guys you might not have ever heard of before: Gilmar "Joaninha" Flores, Marcelo Simões, Fred Kyrillos, and Jef Campacci. On Friday the top four local qualifiers will be fighting over one wildcard slot in the big show on Saturday.
"It's become an X-Fighters tradition to represent the country that's hosting the events and showcase their top riders," says Red Bull spokesman Jordan Miller. "In Brazil, these guys are the real deal."
The wildcard competition is more than just an opening act and the strategy has been paying off as the X-Fighters events help grow both the FMX fan base and the sport itself around the world. As if to emphasize the point, top riders on this year's tour include competitors from Australia, the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Japan, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, and the United States.
Spanish rider Dany Torres, Norwegian rider Andre Villa, and American rider Nate Adams are currently on top of the overall standings after last month's stop in Dubai: If you thought the sport of FMX was mostly a bunch of crazy dudes from California, think again.
Now, about those Brazilians:
Gilmar "Joaninha" Flores is from Sinop and has dominated the Brazil FMX Cup for the last few years. He has also been making a name for himself at X Games Brazil and some of the International Freestyle Motocross Federation (IFMXF) events. His nickname translates as "Ladybug" but don't read too much into it: He's one of the only Brazilians with a trick bag full of backflip variations and he's a favorite to win the wildcard slot this weekend.
Marcelo Simões is from Herculândia and is one of the stars of the Brazilian Freestyle Motocross Circuit. He won the FMX Brazilian Championships in 2007 and 2008 and has also been competing in some of the IFMXF events. He brings big style and unique variations to every trick he does, but without a big bag of backflips he may be left behind.
Fred Kyrillos is from São Paulo and is the mastermind behind Brazil's Ride & Party Freestyle Show. He broke his femur in 2010 but is coming back with a vengeance.
Jeff Campacci finished 13th in the local qualifiers round the last time Red Bull X-Fighters came to Brazil, in 2008. After riding in events around the world ever since, he's hoping to compete against some of his heroes this weekend.
The four riders emerged victorious after an earlier qualifier round, but only one will make it through to Saturday. All four have dreams of competing on the full X-Fighters tour and at the X Games in Los Angeles. Could this weekend be somebody's big break?
"It's one of the really cool things about this tour," says Miller. "The next top rider could come from anywhere."