Knievel Jnr leaps Grand Canyon

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The Independent Online
ROBBIE KNIEVEL, son of Evel, has conquered the Grand Canyon, or at least a sliver of it. Late on Thursday, with several hundred fans and the cameras of a US television network in attendance, the motorcycle daredevil flew 228 feet (68.4 metres) through the thin Arizona air, easily spanning the 200ft-wide gorge.

For Mr Knievel, 37, it was the accomplishment of a long-held ambition. His more famous father, currently recovering from a liver transplant, had always dreamt of jumping the canyon. Apparently he never had the chance to try.

The spectacle, relayed live by Fox Television, had all the required suspense of a death- defying stunt. Had Mr Knievel, riding a 500cc motorcycle, fallen just an inch short of the gorge's far side, he would have plummeted 2,500 feet to the floor of the Hualapai Indian Reservation.

This, of course, was not the span you see on the postcards. The section chosen by Mr Knievel, who ended his jump in undignified fashion with a slide through the dirt, was far to the west of the Grand Canyon National Park.

"I'm wiped out a little in the head," the rider conceded afterwards, referring to his dramatic, but injury-free, crash-landing. Mr Knievel broke his own distance record. Previously, his best was 223ft (66.9m) set in Panama City, Florida, in the early Nineties.

Mr Knievel, who was travelling at 90mph when his bike lifted off from the ramp and took to the air, has declined to reveal how much he was paid by Fox for the exclusive rights to broadcast the leap.

An attempt at the same point had been planned for 29 April, but it had to be deferred because of wind and cold weather. Conditions were much improved this time, with clear skies and lighter winds.

Mr Knievel first emerged from his father's shadow in April 1989, when he successfully jumped the fountains at Caesar's Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas. The same stunt nearly killed Evel Knievel 21 years earlier.

Evel, 60, was a worldwide icon in the Seventies. He appeared at Wembley Stadium in London in 1975, when a crowd of 90,000 saw him crash after clearing 13 double-decker buses. After another crash, he retired from major performances the following year.