Original publication on Private Motor Club.
A few weekends ago we had the distinctive pleasure to experience a rather different kind of event, car related in the wider sense with an equally cool atmosphere and experience.
So, you know Falken Tyres, you know Audi, but have you heard of the Nine Knights and Nine Queens? Well we got to be part of the newest edition of the original “Nine Knights” event, the AUDI NINES presented by Falken. This event doesn’t include car racing or tires in the direct sense, but the same spirit and adrenalin. For the 10th time and the first time in Sölden the most complex obstacle park in the world was constructed: 13 obstacles, 25 variable set offs, 200.000 m3 powder snow, three weeks of construction, over 10.000 hours of work, 17 designers, and a new starting feature, the “Hammer drop”. One hell of a crazy ride, where 52 athletes from 18 nations performed to the best of their skills.
“We chose to partner this event because the Audi Nines are the ultimate in inspiration and precision. We anticipate a unique and thrilling event in a stunning setting, which will reflect the FALKEN brand values and is therefore an excellent fit for us”, comments Markus Bögner, COO Falken Tyre Europe GmbH.
One of the fastest freestyle tracks in the world, elements of Ski and Snowboard cross are implemented adding new, unknown challenges. Talking challenges, speed and extreme sport, we have the perfect combination for Falken to get involved. Falken is involved in exciting and high technology platforms such as its well known motorsports programme with a Porsche 911 GT3 R and BWM M6 GT3, Red Bull Air Race, and AUDI Sportpark based Bundesliga club FC Ingolstadt 04 and the newest edition is snow sports.
Everything evolves around the motto “From racing to the road” and Falken truly lives this.
Having just arrived on track Saturday morning, we get handed a set of little Falken livered Audi Quattro electric vehicles with Falken Snow Tyres. Off we go, place them on one of the many ice benches and the drifting competition has begun, for the next hour or so, while the athletes warm up, you can find me here.
Prior to this little session we had the opportunity to take a little “Behind the Scenes Tour”, for the early birds amongst us. Of course I want to join in, although I have no real idea what to expect. I follow the other participants of the tour until we are standing in front of a snowcat. “Get in please. Now you go up to the starting area”. And what a starting area, the obstacle course especially is mouth dropping but having been able to ride here with a snowcat is a truly special memory I won’t forget.
The competition day on the Saturday is the crowning finale of the Audi Nines for all athletes. And we were right in the mix with over 3000 other spectators and got a great spectacle of the new SlopeX course, the Big Air and the Quaterpipe offered. The mix of different disciplines created a new dynamic in the sport, as the SlopeX obstacles designed in a far more complex way.
The Quarterpipe offers plenty of options: it has four different take-offs, two 17-meter-high landings and is flanked by two big-air jumps. It has been designed to minimize the risk to riders and surely the athletes made the most of it. After landing over 30 meter jumps they immediately enter the Quaterpipe and perform their next stunts, you need to see it to believe it!
The highlight of the weekend for all riders was an extremely rare snow looping. The highlight for all snowboard fans: Gigi Rüf (AUT) put down probably the first carved snowboard loop.
And if you ask some of the athletes yourself?
Four-time X-Games winner Silje Norendal (NOR) explains, “I like the Audi Nines course because it’s different. It’s mainly about having fun. We urgently need that after the Olympic season!”
Jesper Tjäder (SWE), an Olympic participant in the ski slopestyle, agrees: “The unique features and the good friends I meet at the Audi Nines are important to me. There’s nothing better that I’m looking forward to this spring!”
And my personal highlight? Well, it’s very clear, the drifting of the Falken Tyre Audi Quattro on top of the ice bar – I’m a true petrolhead after all.