Pastrana: I’ve never been this scared in my life

The six-time ARA champion needs to take even more risks to catch his competitors


In 2007 Travis Pastrana jumped out of an aeroplane somewhere over Puerto Rico. He didn’t have a parachute, but it wasn’t a problem – he was meeting a friend mid-air to harness himself into one.

A few years later, he jumped 52 cars. Which was cool. But not cool enough. So he jumped 16 buses. When the bike still had some fuel in the tank, he jumped the fountain at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas. That memorable night included 484 feet of airtime.

The 40-year-old is, without a doubt, one of the bravest people ever to set foot or fly above planet earth. All of which combined to make Saturday night in Salem something of an odd one.

Pastrana looked lost. Back in the ARA after a year off with his family, he took a moment or two to play himself in at last month’s Sno*Drift, but kind of expected to be closer to the sharp end in 100 Acre Wood. In his words, he got his butt kicked by both team-mate Brandon Semenuk and Ford Fiesta WRC driver Barry McKenna.

What now?

“I’ve got to go home,” he told DirtFish. “I need to regroup, to talk to my family. I need to talk to my wife and say: “Look, this is the risk that it’s going to take to be where I need to be…” We’ve got an amazing team and I want to give Lance [Smith], Vermont SportsCar, Subaru and Yokohama the best person in this car they possibly can [have]. And if I’m too scared to go for it, I shouldn’t be in that seat.

“I have never been this scared in my entire life and we got to figure out how the hell we’re going to win this championship. It’s going to take a lot of work.”

The 40-year-old admitted the hike in pace across the last two years had taken him by surprise.


Pastrana couldn't match the frightening pace of Semenuk and McKenna on last week's Rally in the 100 Acre Wood

“These cars are awesome,” he said. “They’re so fast. The cars have gotten better but we’re ten seconds a stage faster than when we were winning stages two years ago. Ten seconds is a lot. They (Semenuk and McKenna) are another ten seconds on top of that. They’ve doubled the speed difference.

“My driving is not where we had hoped at all. I really have to take a minute to step back and decide if I feel that I can step up to this pace and I’m willing to take the risk necessary to do it. I’m going to need to take risks I’m going to need to be going flat out and you know barely missing trees. I’ve been away from home a little bit. I need to reprioritize and decide if chasing Brandon and Barry’s 100% what I’m willing to do.”

Pastrana failed to win a stage at 100 Acre Wood, something he’s not used to as a six-time American champion.

“We didn’t make any progress during the event,” he said. “I can get in about any car and by turn three, I kind of understand what the car can do, but we weren’t making time on the stages just by trying to go faster.


The six-time ARA champion isn't sure if he's willing to take more risks on the stages

“I need to figure out whether it’s the notes or what, Rhi [Gelsomino, co-driver] is doing an amazing job – but it’s amazing how much information these guys have in their notes. It means they can drive it like they know the course.”

Asked if he wanted to stay in the car and wanted to remain in the program, Pastrana responded: “I will be at every round this year, 100%. I am contracted by Subaru [and] I would not miss it for the world. I love rally more than anything, ever. But this is the biggest challenge, maybe, that I’ve ever had and it’s going to take a little bit of time to understand if it’s worth it because it is absolutely terrifying and I love every second of it, but…”

It’s fair to say, that wasn’t the conversation DirtFish expected to be having on Saturday night. For somebody so committed to competition, the last two rallies have been hard for Pastrana to take. Will he stay? Who really knows? The suggestion that he could remain in the seat and remain a big part of the show doesn’t sit well. Yes, he’s a showman, but ahead of that, he’s an elite performer who doesn’t do second place.

There would be thousands of fans across the season gutted not to be seeing, selfying and signing with their hero. That fan appeal’s not lost on Subaru Motorsports USA ­– Pastrana remains an absolute sensation, the hero’s hero.

There’s a lot of talking to be done in the Pastrana household over the coming weeks.