Travis Pastrana is up against it.
He may have six US rallying titles – compared to none for his key American Rally Association by DirtFish National championship rivals – but it’s been a tricky season thus far, as he awaits a first win of the season.
After Oregon Trail Rally, where he’d finished third behind Ken Block and Subaru team-mate Brandon Semenuk, he knew there would be no chance of repeating his 2021 form, where he won four times on the way to the title.
“I need more seat time because right now I’m the third fastest here, I’m the fourth fastest on most rallies when [Barry] McKenna’s there,” he admitted after OTR.
“That hasn’t been the case the last couple of years so it’s been a rough start to the season.”
Pastrana didn’t win Southern Ohio Forest Rally, the following round, either. But it definitely wasn’t for a lack of trying.
In the latest episode of SPIN, The Rally Pod, DirtFish ARA correspondent Mason Runkel and Sno*Drift winner Mark Piatkowski spoke about a change they noticed in Pastrana’s approach.
Second place behind Block’s Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC was his eventual reward. But both Runkel and Piatkowski saw a difference in the service park.
“He really needed to up the ante after some of his earlier performances. But he really surprised me,” mused Piatkowski.
“He looked like he really did his homework; he was studying the notes and Rhianon [Gelsomino, his co-driver] was up his ass more than any other [rally] because they really needed to pull together a performance. So I was really impressed by him.”
Pastrana is known the world over for his chilled, laid-back vibe. A talkative, upbeat Travis is the norm, even when things are going wrong.
But in Ohio, it was slightly different.
We've never seen Travis like that. Never.Mark Piatkowski
“Travis was honestly a little bit of a terrifying machine at SOFR compared to how he normally is,” Runkel pointed out.
“As someone who’s typically trying to run up to the car to bother him as soon as he arrived back at service, he usually gets out and he talks to people for a while; he gets back in, goes and parks and then goes into the trailer looking back at videos.
“But at Ohio, he rolled up, laptop already open in his lap, watching the videos with Rhianon, going over the notes. It was like, who is this?”
Piatkowski immediately chimed in: “We’ve never seen Travis like that. Never.”
It did, in some respects, have the desired effect: Pastrana racked up his biggest points haul of the season in Ohio, winning the powerstage in addition to his second place finish.
The odds remain somewhat against him – while he’s been a consistent podium finisher throughout the year, his lack of wins means his points ceiling (150) is lower than that of Semenuk (163) or Block (154).
OTR was the closest Pastrana’s been to a win all season, finishing 38.4 seconds off the top spot.
Runkel was quick to point out that “Rhianon kind of wrote it off, like: ‘This is always what we’re doing in the trailer’. But this is a really big deal that you’re doing it 20 minutes prior to the trailer.”
Piatkowski, though, was certain: “It was a different Travis, for sure. And it clearly paid off.”