Quick, think of one of the best motorcycle stunts Hollywood has ever produced. What’s the first one that comes to mind? The chase on the roofs of Istanbul in Skyfall and the unlikely Triumph duel in Mission: Impossible 2 sure are spectacular. However, no stunt is quite as iconic as Captain Hilts jumping a barbed-wire fence on the Triumph TR6 Trophy in disguise in The Great Escape. 56 years later, British daredevil Guy Martin attempts not only to recreate the stunt but also to one-up Captain Hilts.
It’s hard not to root for Captain Virgil Hilts as he desperately tries to clear the two fences that separate him from Swiss grounds and freedom. While he manages to jump over the first, lower fence, he doesn’t make it past the taller one and gets caught in the barbed wire as the Nazis troops surround him. The first jump has become one of the most iconic images in movie history, performed at the time by Steve McQueen’s (Captain Hilts) stunt double, Bud Ekins.
Who better than famous Isle of Man TT racer and speed junky Guy Martin to attempt a redo. This time, however, not only did Martin try to recreate the jump—he tried to succeed where Hilts failed. The goal: clear both the 5 and the 8-foot fences in one jump, which represents a 60-foot leap.
The team even scouted and found the exact location where the famous scene was recorded to set up the dummy barbed-wire fences. Martin’s weapon of choice for the stunt is a modified Triumph Scrambler 1200 armed with reinforced shocks.
While Martin has more experience with his bike’s two wheels firmly on the ground rather than up in the air, he didn’t shy away from the challenge. He practised the stunt for months leading up to the main event that took place in September. A professor of engineering from Cambridge University even helped him determine the optimal trajectory for the jump.
Did Martin pull it off? According to the The Daily Mail, barely: he almost completed the jump but got caught in the wires of the second fence due to the bike dropping too early. There is now say however if that’s the final result—the Guy Martin’s Great Escape documentary is set to air on 8 December to answer the question.