License to kilt

Sitting atop a 1971 UnionJack-crested Mini Cooper as if he were riding a British Spotted Pony, Danny Badiola did not feel confident about his immediate prospects.

Taking a page from Johnny Knoxville’s book of Jackassery, Badiola’s entourage dug their heels into the ground and pushed the pint-sized vehicle as fast as they could, launching it off the end of a warehouse ramp and into a wall.

A few bumps and bruises (and a totaled front end of a car) later, the seven-member team, made up of employees and contractors from local MadDog’s Pubs, had to start over from scratch to create a viable entry for Red Bull Flugtag Texas.

“What we realized was that metal just doesn’t fly well,” said Badiola.

Flugtag (pronounced floog-tag), German for “flying day,” is a competition in which teams build flamboyant flying machines and pilot the contraptions off a 22-foot high ramp and into a body of water. Although the distance the machine travels is critical to the team’s overall score, it is not the only criteria judges consider. Creativity and showmanship, which can include a full minute of skits and dancing, are also factored in.

As the only team based out of San Antonio for this year’s event, Team MadDogs is one of the 33 groups set to take the plunge into Lady Bird Lake, formally known as Town Lake, in Austin. Although 16 San Anto teams applied to compete, Red Bull spokesperson Ellen Applen said Team MadDogs distinguished itself during the application process.

“It was truly a combination of their skit plans, craft blueprint, and overall team personality that won the judges over,” Applen said.

Abandoning the dangerous Mini Cooper idea, the team decided that to go along with the pub theme, Badiola would ride horseback on a kilt-wearing red bulldog made out of Styrofoam and wood. The pooch will sport a set of Union Jack wings to help catch some wind and carry it, they hope, more than a few inches (the average for most flugtag teams). To accomplish this, they turned to teammates Maximiliano Valencia, a local set designer and builder, and independent contractor Dave McKay, to lead the aircraft production.

“This is a challenge of a lifetime,” said Valencia, adding that it took two weeks to get the red bulldog ready for its virgin launch. “This `event` is like a mix of the X-Games and the Wright Brothers and we’ve got the perfect flying machine to win it all. The bulldog is just a tough animal. It can take a beating.”

Possibly the most internationally diverse team in the competition, Team MadDogs took three years to assemble its crew, which is made up of seven different nationalities: Filipino (“Little Big Man” Badiola), Spanish (“Mad Max” Valencia), Scottish (“Bob the Builder” McKay), Japanese (Andrew “Mota-Sun” Mota), British (Terry “Turbo T” Corless), Irish (Bill “The Lid” Durrand), and American (Bryan “Big Ass” Allen). Team captain Corless said his squad was chosen from more than 75 MadDogs employees from around the world.

“This was an intensive recruiting process,” said Corless, a former British Air Seals member and current CEO of MadDogs International. “Even MadDogs Hong Kong wanted to be a part of this.”

In the end, however, Team MadDogs members, who will be sporting kilts while standing on the launching pad, were chosen with a melting-pot dynamic in mind and based on individual skills each teammate could contribute. For McKay, it was his strength.

“I can push really fast,” he said. “I’m the power behind the machine.”

For Mota, it was his courage.

“Like a samurai warrior I’m going into the water headfirst,” he said.

And The Lid says it was his lack of brain cells that put him over the top.

“I was just the craziest one of them all,” said Durrand, who moved to San Antonio from Ireland a year ago to receive medical treatment after crashing into a wall and embedding part of his helmet in his skull. “When I heard about flugtag I thought, ‘That is for me!’ because there is a lot of danger involved. Basically, my plan is to drink about 40 Red Bulls and have all these guys just stand back and watch.”

Although Durrand might be caffeinated enough to push the craft off the ledge by himself, they will rely on the expertise of “jockey-esque” Badiola, a 5’6” go-cart enthusiast, who is hoping to catch a gust of wind and rise to the occasion.

“I’ve always been a thrill-seeking individual,” Badiola said. “When I fly off that cliff I just need to hold onto the dog as tight as I can and hopefully when I hit the water it floats.”

Team MadDogs is chartering a bus to take San Antonians up to Austin for the competition. If you would like to hitch a ride or for more information about the trip, contact Danny Badiola at [email protected].

Red Bull
Flugtag Texas
5pm gates open, Sat, Aug 25

Auditorium Shores
730 W. Riverside, Austin

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