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‘Smokey’ theme wins team honor at event
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The team’s theme was based on the movie, “Smokey and the Bandit."
A semi-truck careened toward the edge of a ramp 30 feet above the ocean.

Just as it reached the edge, the sides began to flip up, resembling wings.

That’s when there was a snag and the whole contraption dove straight into the water.

“This is our glorious trek into the Atlantic,” pilot Brad Sitton said, reviewing a photo of the fall. “It was a horrific crash. We had the best crash of the day.”

Sitton led Cumming-based Team Transplace in its fight to claim the top prize in a recent Red Bull Flugtag competition, which challenges teams to create a contraption that will take flight off a ramp.

About 85,000 people gathered at Bayfront Park on July 10 to watch the teams attempt flight over Biscayne Bay in Miami.

The 35 teams were judged in three categories: distance, showmanship and creativity.

While Team Transplace’s nosedive didn’t win the top spot, its antics and “Smokey and the Bandit” theme earned the People’s Choice Award, determined through text voting.

“We were crowd favorites,” Sitton said. “It was just nonstop people wanting to get their pictures taken with us. The mustaches were killing it.”

The five-man flight crew donned black handlebar mustaches true to their 1970s movie theme. All but Sitton wore short police officer uniforms and cardboard police cars on their sides.

Sitton played the role of the bandit running from the cops in the skit and throughout the day’s constant silliness.

The team was also followed by a camera crew from ESPN, which will feature the five men in a special in August on channel E60.

The local men’s three-month journey began several months earlier when an advertisement for Red Bull Flugtag popped up on Sitton’s computer.

He called his twin brother, who works for a company called Transplace in Texas, to see if they would be interested in sponsoring a team.

To the brothers’ surprise, the company was interested, as long as the flying design looked like a truck, representing the company’s business.

Sitton contacted a friend, Jonathan Wolfe, who owns a design company in Atlanta, to discuss some plans.

Sitton started describing the semi-truck design but Wolfe’s ideas flowed faster.

“I’m not even finished, he’s already cutting out stuff. He said, ‘What if the wings popped up like this?’” Sitton said. “Immediately, the vision just went whoosh.”

Wolfe suggested the “Smokey and the Bandit” theme, since parts of the movie were filmed on Ga. 400 in Forsyth County.

The ideas began to develop quickly in Wolfe’s design warehouse, where the team constructed the giant truck that converted into an escape capsule for the bandit.

“We came over here for a little brainstorming session and the rest is history,” said Wolfe, showing off the original paper model resting atop one of hundreds of empty Red Bull cans in the workshop.

The five-man flight crew team was formed through friend circles and most of the team members work in some aspect of design.

“We’re creative professionals,” Sitton said. “We’re problem solvers ... our problem was we had to create something that would fly, so we had to become experts in aluminum and in drag ratios and calculations for lift.”

They also had some help from a Gainesville company that designs styrofoam statues to create the truck’s cab.

The full design took about two months to complete, but the finished design surprisingly mirrored the original plans sent to Red Bull in a video, Sitton’s wife, Jen, said.

“When I first saw it, I thought there’s no way they’re going to be able to get that to look like that,” she said. “It came out exactly like the video.”

The team was able to review plans from the other 34 teams on the Red Bull Web site before leaving and was shocked that the results of others’ endeavors were as successful as their own.

Other designs included a three-tier cake, a Koopa Troopa turtle video game character, a giant iPhone and a flying manatee.

Team member Mauro Reyes enjoyed taking photos of the many designs while in Miami.

Reyes, the digital media and graphics designer for North Point Community Church, said he originally thought the Flugtag competition sounded a little crazy, but he wanted the experience.

“I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I did this,” Reyes said. “I wanted my kids to be able to say, ‘This wasn’t necessarily something my dad wanted to do, but he thought it was fun.’”

On the way home from Miami, Reyes said he and Wolfe began discussing plans for next year’s event.

They’re also considering entering the fall Red Bull Soapbox Race to once again face new and friendly Red Bull competition rivals from Atlanta, the Beer Connoisseurs.

“No guy wants to sit at a desk all day and just crunch numbers,” Sitton said. “Deep down, every guy has a battle they want to do. There’s an adventure they want to live.

“This was our chance to say, ‘Let’s do something that’s a little outrageous.’”