Behind The Scenes

Sport Science provides an inside look at New Year. No Limits. stunts

What are you doing to celebrate the New Year?

Snowmobiler Levi LaVallee and motocross rider Robbie Maddison are taking fast and scenic flights over San Diego Bay.

On Saturday on ESPN, ESPNHD and ESPN3 at approximately 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT immediately following the Chick-fil-A Bowl, they simultaneously will try to break world records at Red Bull: New Year. No Limits.

Both riders will attempt to cross more than 300 feet of water in San Diego, Calif. en route to breaking the distance jump records for their respective vehicles.

In the video above, ESPN Sport Science host John Brenkus explains the difficulties inherent to the stunts.

Brenkus also gave Front Row further background from a scientific perspective.

FR: When analyzing what Robbie Maddison and Levi LaVallee will face during their world-record setting attempts, what stood out to you as their biggest challenge from a scientific perspective?

Brenkus: In my mind, the most difficult challenge will be mental — controlling the surge of adrenaline that each rider will experience when it’s time to go. They each have to be fantastically precise in their launches — they’ll both be moving at over 100 miles an hour when they hit the take-off ramp, and a launch only one degree off line could alter the landing at the end of the flight by up to 10 feet laterally. That’s a very small margin of error. But if they can harness their adrenaline, they should be able to execute flawlessly.

FR: Can you please describe how the situation is analyzed within an ESPN Sport Science segment in order to determine what scientific principles will come into play?

Brenkus: The primary principle we looked at was trajectory. In simplest terms, all trajectories, from shooting a basketball to firing a rifle, are a function of launch velocity and launch angle. Robbie and Levi have determined over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of jumps, their optimal launch velocities and angles. There are other variables, of course, including air resistance, aerodynamic drag, and the force of gravity, which Robbie and Levi deal with on a more intuitive level through trial and error. For our purposes, we focus on the most elemental aspects of the stunts — to break the existing world records, if they keep their launch angles consistent with previous jumps, they simply have to go faster than they ever have.

For more information on the riders and the stunt, read this ESPN.com Page 2 post.

For more information on ESPN Sport Science, click here.

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