The year was set to be a big one for Travis Pastrana. He was returning to rallying full-time, his popular Nitro Rallycross concept was set for expansion, and he’d even lined up a handful of offshore powerboat racing outings – because, why not?
Then the coronavirus took hold, throwing what Pastrana described as “the greatest racing year of my life” into doubt.
Aside from sitting out Sno*Drift, which Subaru has elected to do regularly in recent seasons, 2020 would have been Pastrana’s first full season in the USA’s premier rallying category since 2017 when he won the most recent of his five national titles.
Three of the American Rally Association series events so far in 2020 though have either been postponed or cancelled altogether.
Pastrana, after approaching Subaru about a return, was set to lead a new-look Subaru Motorsports driver line-up in ARA this year, following David Higgins’ departure and Oliver Solberg’s decision to focus on his European efforts.
Joining him in the team when things eventually kick-off again will be Brandon Semenuk, the mountain biking superstar, who’s already been making waves in rallying circles by winning multiple events in his native Canada.
“This guy is serious,” Pastrana told DirtFish about his new team-mate. “For an action sports guy obviously he’s got guts but he’s also very calculated, he’s very articulate. He’s been on top of his game for a long time for a reason.
“Over the last five years he’s spent more time in a car than he has spent on his mountain bike.
“He was actually faster than me at the first test so that was a little disheartening,” Pastrana joked, “but I think it’s going to be a really fun and exciting year.”
In bringing in Semenuk, Subaru now has two action-sports converts who started their professional careers on two wheels, and it means that Pastrana will now take over the role as team leader, mentoring Semenuk in the same way Higgins did with him.
“I couldn’t be happier with the dynamic of the team for this season,” Pastrana said.
“To go into that role will definitely be more stressful of a weekend for me to try and make sure that we get the best results that we can for Subaru, and to give the best chance that I can for Brandon to be a successful rally driver to make that transition from two wheels to four like I had with David for my transition.
“For me testing [in the past] was never about testing, I just tried to go out and be as quick as I could and then at the end of the test I said ‘OK, give me what David has’. So this is definitely going to be much different.”
On the subject of Higgins, whose US rallying future remains uncertain following the confirmation that he wouldn’t be running full-time in what would have been the 2020 season, Pastrana paid tribute to his former team-mate, describing him as “my coach, my mentor, my friend”.
“There’s no harder worker than David Higgins,” he added. “There’s no-one who puts more time into his notes, that thinks everything through and goes over everything more than him and [co-driver] Craig Drew have in the past.
“That’s why he’s been so successful for so long with so few mistakes over the years.”