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Jake Bennett and Mel Eckert set two new world records with a single jump. This is how they entered the Guinness World Record book.

Back when I was a kid in primary school one of the most popular books in the school library was the Guinness Book Of World Records. We would pore over it in search of the weird and the wonderful or the dangerous and daring records. We weren’t interested in Olympic sprinting or high jumping records but things like the hot dog eating record (Joey Chestnut, 76 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes) or the longest wheelchair ramp jump (Aaron Fotheringham, 21.35m).

It was the motorbike related jumps that really caught my eye in my early years though, usually set by the late Evel Kneivel. Evel was a showman who knew how to work up excitement and as it was early days for big motorcycle jumps he had to learn by hard experience. There were very few people he could turn to for advice and subsequently experienced a lot of injuries and some spectacularly unsuccessful jumps, but when he got it right he did it with style.

Well there is now a new category in the Guinness book for people to aspire to. The longest motorcycle jump with a pillion passenger dirt to dirt and it has been set by two Aussies, Jake Bennett and Mel Eckert. On July 16th 2023 at Picton, Jake and Mel set a new world record with a jump of 37.1m. There was not a lot of fanfare or pre-jump publicity for the record attempt but hopefully we’ll rectify that on these pages and give them the respect they have well and truly earnt.

Jake and Mel work in the specialised field of stunt work for movies and TV with their most recent efforts being on Mad Max Furiosa and The Fall Guy. Jake grew up racing bikes from an early age in Wollongong, but Mel had no bike experience until meeting Jake on a movie set. How he talked her into sitting on the back of a CRF450 Honda, with no pillion pegs, and attempting the jump is a masterpiece of persuasion. He must be a smooth talker, if he ever gives up stunt work perhaps he would be successful as a salesman or even a diplomat.

Guinness have a long list of requirements for a world record attempt and it can be an expensive proposition to take on, especially as Jake and Mel did it all on their own without any sponsor support. To have a Guinness adjudicator present on the day costs about $20,000 so Jake and Mel attempted the record and submitted it for review without a Guinness representative present. This meant they needed independent witnesses, a surveyor for accurate measurements, an ambulance in case things didn’t go as intended, and plenty of film and photo evidence to submit to Guinness and it’s quite a lengthy process. Then they had to sit back and wait to see whether Guinness would recognise their efforts.

There are also restrictions on the bike, no modifications to help it in the air such as winglets or air foils are allowed. The 2018 Honda was standard except for heavier springs and modified valving in the suspension. They did have a set of extra wide foot pegs, the ones with the little extra part at the back, so Mel had her toes on that extra section, tucked under Jakes heels. This was listed in the rules for the attempt, no modifications except for pillion pegs, and it may have been easier with some pillion pegs but where would you mount them?

As if that isn’t enough the jump was done dirt to dirt with no fancy moveable metal ramps to build up to the distance. This gave them two records, longest jump with passenger and longest jump with passenger dirt to dirt. Jake practiced solo at first using weights on the bike and a weighted vest to simulate Mel, and no, we were much too gentlemanly to ask the ladies weight. When it came time to do it for real Jake mentioned that it was not quite the same as Mel’s weight was in a different position and he was standing with her sitting.

Mel had limited previous practice due to safety reasons and rose to a standing position in the air due to the forces encountered, which meant she had the support of her legs to help absorb the landing. All she had to hang onto though was Jake, and he in turn had the handlebars and pressure from his knees on the tank. They had a small amount of practice on a flat jump, but it was a really rough landing. Being a flat landing on dirt you can imagine the stresses involved on parts like the rims, hubs and spokes when landing.

The practice jump they built was flat, but the actual jump attempt was from a dirt up ramp to a dirt down ramp, not to the flat, and across a gully as well. The dirt double lander was a much nicer landing on the day. Thankfully everything held up but no doubt Jake will be going over the Honda with a fine tooth comb before another attempt on the same bike.

Jake got the idea from the amount of bike stunts with a passenger that were appearing in movies so he thought it a good idea to practice and build skills to see what he could achieve. He talked Mel into getting on the back and started with wheelies and stoppies and eventually when she felt comfortable enough, a few small jumps. They started by jumping a tabletop jump and gradually increasing the distance until Jake sent it a bit too hard and landed on the down ramp. Joking about it afterwards, he mused out loud “I wonder what the record is?” and so Mel, her curiosity piqued, went and looked it up.

It turned out there actually was a record, which had stood for 23 years, and they didn’t just break it, they smashed it by over seven metres. That has raised the bar a hell of a lot for whoever wants to take on the challenge of beating it. The dirt to dirt record might stand for a long time as ramp to ramp is a bit easier, and no doubt a safer prospect for anybody looking to write their name in the Guinness book. A lot of Jake’s and Mel’s fellow stunt people witnessed the jump, and they all said that none of them would have been willing to try it so maybe it will remain unbroken.

Despite those concerns from fellow experts, Jake and Mel were committed and had no second thoughts about jumping. They had confidence in their skill, planning and preparation. You can witness the jump on YouTube and Mel tells us that her scream is one of relief and elation as she realises they are actually going to succeed in their efforts. At least that’s what she told us and who are we to doubt her?

We asked if anything else is on the horizon and Mel hinted that she may be interested in one of the many car records as cars are more her specialty. There are lots of car records to choose from such as distance jumped, most doughnuts around an obstacle, driving on two wheels and others. They are mostly set by men so Mel could set a whole new category by setting a Womens’ Record in one or more of the options.

Computer graphics seem to be taking over these days in the special effects of movies but you can tell the difference usually between real people and animated stunts. Go back and have a look at some older movies when there was no other option but to do it for real, such as the speedboat jump in “Live And Let Die”. Real stunts are always more exciting and satisfying to see and we hope Jake and Mel have a long and successful career in front of them.

If anyone wants to try and topple Jake and Mel’s record let us know where and when as we here at ADB would certainly like to witness such a spectacle.