As part of a new feature series, we will take a closer look at one crew and one car on one stage from every round of ARA presented by DirtFish.
If one stage of last week’s Southern Ohio Forest Rally was going out bring out the best of the best, it was going to be… America’s Best.
And so it transpired. Step forward Travis Pastrana and Rhianon Gelsomino. Step forward and take a bow.
The defending champions got their title defense back on track in emphatic fashion with a 1.4-second win on the SOFR powerstage.
For 8.7 miles Pastrana put everything on the line to land a stunning stage win. Crossing the finish line, he knew he’d done something special.
“F*** yeah!” he shouted, before apologizing to Subaru Motorsports USA’s marketing guru Yuji Otsuki for his language.
“Anybody who beats us, deserves it,” he told Gelsomino. “Holy cow that was a good one.”
The effort was obvious, with Pastrana lobbing in a couple of “oh boys…” as the WRX STI stepped out of line.
Reflecting on the Ohio five-pointer that takes him back to the top of the table, Pastrana told DirtFish: “We were jumping everything and taking cuts we probably shouldn’t have been taking, bouncing off things that should have broken the car. But we got it done.
“Last year I learned a lot from [Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate] Scott Speed, he told me: ‘The homework’s free.’ He’s right. To beat Ken, we did our homework.”
And they did. Every moment Pastrana was driving, his head was buried in in his laptop as he and Gelsomino learned their lines for an epic performance.
Gelsomino added: “I’ve sat with a lot of people and done a lot of rallying in my career, but when we got to the end of that stage, we both said: ‘If Ken [Block] and Alex [Gelsomino, Rhi’s husband] beat us in there, hats off to them.’
“I knew all the effort we’d put in – I’d seen the effort we’d put in after the first run [through America’s Best] in the morning and the changes we’d made in all the little places to make up that time.
“There were some moments in there, some moments when we were way out in the grass, but we got it done. It was only 1.4 seconds, but, hey, it’s a win.”
Sit back and enjoy the next seven and a half minutes of speed, guts and glory, courtesy of Pastrana, Gelsomino, Yuji Otsuki and all of our friends at Subaru Motorsports USA.
By the way, if you’re wondering why the stage is called ‘America’s Best’ it’s thanks to John Buffum, one of America’s most recognizable rallying names. Formerly called Irish Ridge, Buffum drove the road and immediately declared it America’s best stage. The name stuck.