Ojibwe Forests Rally winner Travis Pastrana has praised the “phenomenal” job done by stand-in co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino on the American and Australian duo’s first rally together.
Pastrana took a 19.8-second victory over ARA National points leader Barry McKenna in Minnesota, denying McKenna a hat-trick of wins and keeping his own slim title hopes alive in the process.
A win wasn’t just a bonus for Pastrana, it was a must. Subaru skipped Sno*Drift in January as is tradition, but with the shortened 2020 season courtesy of COVID-19, this left Pastrana and Subaru with less rounds than usual to recoup the points lost to rally winner McKenna.
That was then compounded on the Southern Ohio Forest Rally when Pastrana’s Subaru WRX STI set on fire and was burnt to a crisp. McKenna won again.
Another complication for Pastrana is he’s been without his crew chief and regular co-driver Robbie Durant this season due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Christine Beavis stepped in for Ohio but wasn’t able to commit further, so in stepped Gelsomino for Ojibwe.
Gelsomino’s career has included wins in the Asia-Pacific, Australian, New Zealand and Scottish Rally championships, and she has also co-driven to success before in America.
“I never thought I’d see Gelsomino, Pastrana on the [side of the] same car given her husband [Alex] is Ken [Block]’s co-driver,” Pastrana joked.
“But they are phenomenal and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned more this week just with her preparation and how she goes about it. We clicked right away in the car.”
Pastrana used all of the time available on Wednesday’s pre-event test stage to gel with Gelsomino but the chemistry between the pair was immediately there.
“You kind of get a bond with your co-driver, a chemistry, not to sound weird but it’s just like by the inflection of their voice, you know if you’re driving too hard or not hard enough, you kind of get that camaraderie in there,” Pastrana explained.
“[We] definitely put in our homework. There are a lot of great drivers but Barry especially, he won the first two rounds, he’s always been super-fast but he’s figured out a way to keep staying on the road so [is] really hard to beat now.
“Rhianon, she taught me so much. She’s an amazing driver coach, she’s an amazing co-driver and co-driver coach as well as a PE teacher and someone that’s awesome to have in that passenger’s seat.
“With COVID I didn’t have my crew chief from last year or my co-driver from last year so coming here knowing that if Barry won any more races he wins the championship, the chance of us catching him are one in a million.
“Our job is to win. We knew we had to come out here and win so [it’s] definitely awesome to get out there and do what we needed to do.”