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10 years Night of the Jumps
Interview with Marko Manthey and Jörg Hotzel
Press Release by IFMXF

2001 saw the birth of freestyle motocross sports in Europe. On 21 February 2001 the first NIGHT of the JUMPs took place at the Riesa Erdgas Arena, bringing to the Riesa Arena the world’s best FMX athletes at the time. Names like Mad Mike Jones, Tommy Clowers and Manu Troux showed tricks such as the kiss of death for the first time on German or European ground. After 10 years the NIGHT of the JUMPs has grown to become the sport’s most important FMX series and crowns the official FIM world champion. Time to ask its creators how it all started and developed and about everything that has happened over the last 10 years.

Marko Manthey and Jörg Hotzel

1. Marko, how did you get the idea of setting up an FMX event like the NIGHT of the JUMPs? Marko Manthey: That was a real challenge for us, since we had absolutely no conception of motorbike or arena events. Though we had earlier built up an international BMX series, the EUROPEAN KING OF DIRT. When we saw the Air Cross, organised by MotoX, at the ISPO Summer Games in Munich, we got the idea for the NIGHT of the JUMPs; in the last resort we found it was more or less the same as the BMX, only bigger.

2. And how did your idea come into being at the first event?
Jörg Hotzel: Many people thought we were just mad to want to fill a whole show with this “superjump.” Arenas turned us down and nobody believed in us. Finally we found the support we needed in Riesa to get the NIGHT of the JUMPs 1 going.

3. Who exactly were the founders of the NIGHT of the JUMPs?
Marko Manthey: That was myself and Jörg Hotzel. We held the first NIGHT of the JUMPs together with the team as it was then. Though I was alone at the first event, since Jörg was becoming a father for the first time. An absolutely memorable day for both of us, and one which we shall never forget!

4. Could you have believed in your wildest dreams in those days that the world’s biggest FMX series, the most important in the whole sport, would grow out of it?
Jörg Hotzel: Of course we thought of it. But how far we would get, we didn’t know. But even then we designed our structures with the idea in mind of building up motocross on a long-term and permanent basis, to promote freestyle, and as the contestants wanted it.

5. What came next after Night of the JUMPs 1?
Marko Manthey: Next came a huge pile of debts − we had no idea. We had lost about DM 400,000 on the first NIGHT of the JUMPs. It took years till we’d paid everything off. Luckily everyone was patient, and through other events we were able to justify their confidence in us. In 2002 we organised two NIGHT of the JUMPs, at Riesa and Oberhausen, and ran the Pro/Am tour together with Sony Walkman.

6. How did the NIGHT of the JUMPs in Germany turn into an international series?
Jörg Hotzel: We took our orientation from the international rock’n’roll business. Since we could not assume the risk or the organisation for more events, we looked for partners who knew in their own cities how to run advertising and sell tickets. The rest − the whole sports-related part, including building the track − came from us. In this way we were able to use synergies and produce much more cheaply. Here too at the start we had plenty of expensive lessons to learn until we found the right partners, but that’s all part of the game.

7. You founded a world FMX association − the International Freestyle Motocross Federation, IFMXF in short. Why did you take this step?
Marko Manthey: At the start there was nothing like it. The IFMA in America wasn’t the slightest bit interested in Europe. So there were no rules, nor had anyone believed in FMX at all. That was why founding the IFMXF was logical and necessary, so that for people outside the sport we had something like a means to justify our existence and weren’t just a freak show.

8. And for four years the official FIM FMX world champion has also been selected at the NIGHT of the JUMPs. Has that raised the international standing of the series further? Jörg Hotzel: I think it has indeed raised its standing. The FIM, being a serious institution, has helped to take us out of the non-serious feature columns in the papers and onto the sports section, through which FMX has been recognised more rapidly as a sport, and that was one of our aims. Of course the spectators want to see a good show along with the sport, and the show is just as important. But it is the riders who have the biggest share in our success and in the popularity of the series − the riders who, with their incredible performances, inspire both spectators and media. We “merely” provide the platform the create the ideal framework.

9. What has your share been, do you believe, in developing FMX sport to its present level, both among fans and media? Marko Manthey: Continuity, keeping our promises, plenty of hard work, and fairness towards all those involved − that has been our contribution. For the rest we have many great partners to thank, who believed in us and supported us from the beginning. Among these are Rebel Media, Red BULL, MotoX, and for many years Berlinièros PR too. (Editor's note: and of course FORTY8 :-)

10. Which driver do you consider to have been the best in the history of the NIGHT of the JUMPs? Jörg Hotzel: That’s a good question. There have been plenty of impressive characters and fantastic drivers taking part. But I think Mad Mike Jones played one of the most important roles in developing FMX sport. If he had not been there, the sport might well not exist at all in the way it does.

11. Which was the worst crash?
Marko Manthey: The most spectacular crash was certainly the mid-air crash in Salzburg. From the media point of view, Mike Metzger’s crash during the first European back-flip in Oberhausen came top of the list. I myself was most stunned by Fredrik Johansson’s crash in Basel. But, all in all, and after many more than 100 events, really very little has happened.

12. What was the most spectacular NIGHT of the JUMPs?
Marko Manthey: They were all spectacular, and we always try to make the next one even better than the last. But the greatest satisfaction I had was after the second day of NIGHT of the JUMPs 1 in Riesa. The programme on the first day lasted nearly 5 hours. That was simply too long for the spectators, some of whom went home. We then spent the whole night altering the sequence of events and making the programme tighter. When the show was over and the spectators stood up round the arena and applauded like mad, I knew the idea had a future − that was perfect.

Jörg Hotzel: For me the first NIGHT of the JUMPs in Fortaleza, Brazil, was definitely a highlight. Our partner only began preparing the event four days beforehand. Starting from more or less nothing, we finished the set-up for the event in the huge football stadium right at the last minute. We had expected 1,000 spectators maximum; there had hardly been any advertising, and our mood was at zero. Then the stadium gate was opened, and more than 30,000 partying Brazilians streamed into the stadium. That was a moment I won’t forget so quickly.

13. What was the greatest surprise in 10 years of the NIGHT of the JUMPs?
Jörg Hotzel: Apart from a few “streakers” and our first event in Brazil, it may have been Mat Rebeaud und Fredrik Johansson, who came to the NIGHT of the JUMPs as unknowns, and then immediately beat everybody and regularly took centre stage.

14. And what was the biggest glitch?
Marko Manthey: There are such an incredible amount of glitches each time, you can’t imagine. Some of them you don’t notice yourself. But that’s our business, always to react immediately and keep things sparkling up-front, while backstage we work our arses off in the full sense of the word and give everything we’ve got for the spectators and the drivers. And at this point I must express my very great thanks to the whole team! 130 days a year on the road, not seeing their families, often with days on which they are more than 20 hours in the arena, and all that without complaining! Many thanks!!!

15. What was the most important stage of development in the NIGHT of the JUMPs?
Jörg Hotzel: I am sure it sounds funny, but the world-wide success of NIGHT of the JUMPs, with over 1 million spectators, is all because the show has remained essentially the same and, except for small changes in the sideshows and spectacular attractions, we let the drivers provide the sparkle, the dynamism and the highlights. We present live sport entertainment − we don’t agree anything in advance; the NIGHT of the JUMPs is a genuine competition, and precisely that is its essential character.

16. What was the most decisive change?
Marko Manthey: That was certainly the step we took in collaborating with the FIM. At the start this made everything more difficult and more political in our otherwise so easy-going and simple FMX world. It was a completely new situation for us, and we had to start by coming to terms with it. Suddenly there were problems we had not formerly known. The FIM and its affiliated federations can bring much more to the sport, though we are still only at the start of the development process. Within the FIM and the national associations there are certainly committed people who sustain our sport very strongly and have joined us in taking a common approach. This makes us confident.

17. What will be future be for the NIGHT of the JUMPs?
Jörg Hotzel: We must and shall work further on our structures. With this in mind, we are completely refashioning our system in 2010. There will national championships world-wide, by which the IFMXF World Ranking will gain in importance and the series will become more accessible to talented newcomers. In my opinion, this is where the future lies. On this basis the Night of the Jumps will continue to grow and become even bigger.

18. How do you believe the FMX scene will develop in future and in general?
Marko Manthey: A major component which supplies the FMX scene with money will become less and less important. I mean the shows or demos as side events to other events. At the moment they are very important, but it was the same with skateboarding, BMX, inline and mountain biking − they become less attractive, and it will certainly be the same with FMX. This means in turn that fewer riders will earn money like that. So the big international competition series such as the NIGHT of the JUMPs and the Red Bull X-Fighters will become the main motivation for riders to play the sport. I very much hope that there will be further series such as the Fight Club, and I will be very glad if we can collaborate more with these series, too.

Jörg Hotzel: My thanks go to all those who have supported us on the path we have taken; but thanks too, of course, to all those who did not believe in us! That always gave us the motivation to give of our best. I am looking forward to the next ten years.

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