Tignes, France -- Extreme sportsman Guerlain Chicherit lands what's being called the world's first successful "unassisted" 360-degree backflip by a car, driving a Mini John Cooper Works Countryman up the side of a snow ramp in Tignes in the French Alps, launching it 39 feet into the air.
The successful airbound stunt crowns an already impressive career in extreme sports for Chicherit. The 34-year-old is equally in his element on snow as he is behind the wheel of a rally car. Four times a freestyle skiing world champion, he has also won the French rally championship on two occasions. The Frenchman is also a veteran of the X-raid Team (which wrapped up back-to-back Dakar Rally titles in January 2013 with the MINI ALL4 Racing), having made his debut for the German outfit back in 2006. In 2011 Chicherit was in the driver's seat as the MINI ALL4 Racing turned its first wheels in South America for the world's toughest rally.
The MINI Backflip show event in Tignes gave Chicherit the chance to bring together every facet of his passion for extreme sports. Tignes is one of France's best-known winter sports locations and provided the venue for the freestyle skiing competitions in the 1992 Winter Olympic Games.
The backflip had previously been attempted by other drivers. But Chicherit has now become not only the first automotively-propelled artist to execute a perfect landing, he also did it "unassisted" - in other words, without the aid of a special ramp with moving elements to boost the car's rotational movement. For his take-off, Chicherit used a static ramp that fits the same template as a quarterpipe on a freestyle course. With the ideal ramp breakover angle in place, Chicherit needed only two other things to record a successful attempt: an extremely light touch with the accelerator and a MINI with a suitably buoyant spring in its step.