Travis Pastrana Returns to Moto Racing

The legend returns for Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and confirms Red Bull Global Rallycross race.
Travis Pastrana | 2014 Oregon Trail Rally in Hood River
Travis Pastrana at the Oregon Trail Rally in 2014 © Lars Gange - Subaru/Red Bull Content Pool
By Eric Wright/Bayo Olukotun

We know you're already excited for Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and now you can go into full meltdown territory. Travis Pastrana, the wonder boy of action sports and professional at basically everything he has ever tried in his life, has confirmed that he will compete at the one-of-a-kind event in Pomona, California, on October 4.

The world has recently known Travis as a NASCAR driver, rally racer, X Games poster child, and Nitro Circus catalyst, but his roots are in motocross. In fact, he went pro at just 16 years old -- with a full factory contract from Suzuki. And what’s more, he won the 2000 125 (now 250) AMA Pro Motocross Championship in his rookie year in the series.

Of course, Straight Rhythm is right up TP’s alley; he’s invented more freestyle tricks than most people can even name, but in racing his abilities on the motorcycle have been the stuff of legend. He battled tooth and nail with Ricky Carmichael at the Anaheim Supercross in 2002, just one year after Carmichael dominated the series. He’s also the guy who wheelied the entire whoop section at Washougal while leading a moto (which he won), and the guy who won a heat race in Daytona and celebrated with a backflip over the finish line.

In addition to throwing his hat in the Straight Rhythm ring, Travis also announced that he'll be driving in the Los Angeles stop of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series on September 19-21. As usual, Travis is one busy guy.

He stopped by Red Bull HQ earlier this week so we had a chat with him to find out what's in store as the GRC and Straight Rhythm events approach; see what he had to say below.

Travis Pastrana in his 2014 Global Rallycross Subaru
Pastrana's 2014 GRC Subaru © Lars Tell us a little about your preparation plan for Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Travis Pastrana: We have a good test day coming up because it's been a little while since I’ve been in the GRC cars. The Rally America cars are restricted a lot more, so we’re a lot slower in the woods. At the same time you’ve got trees and cliffs, so we’re still doing 120 mph on snow and stuff like that, but I’m super excited to get in there.

I tried to go off and do my own thing, and I wouldn’t say it was a huge mistake -- but it was a huge mistake

The guys from NASCAR, like Scott Speed, have been talking to me a bit about how they’re setting up their cars; the style of driving has changed so much. It’s evolving so fast from the guys like [Dani] Sordo and [Sèbastien] Loeb who took a new style to GRC where it’s no longer the Colin McRae super-sideways approach.

Are they easing the car through the turns a bit more now?

It’s kind of sad for me because I always liked going wide-open and sliding sideways, but when you see someone like Scott Speed, you figure he must be taking it easy. Then you look at the times and you’re like, “Wait, when did he turn this time?” They are just so smooth and precise, so my NASCAR experience was definitely good for this.

What are some other differences between GRC and Rally America?

We don’t have co-drivers for GRC, but it’s really funny because the wife of my co-driver for Rally America is my spotter for Global Rally Cross. It’s been fun to do Rally America (on my own team) but it’s good to be back in the Subaru. I tried to go off and do my own thing, and I wouldn’t say it was a huge mistake -- but it was a huge mistake -- so it’s good to be back where I think we can be a lot more competitive.

I would imagine that doing an independent team is a bit more difficult than getting full factory support from Subaru.

Exactly. It’s tough because I haven’t been testing as much as the other guys but I also probably have more time in the car than anyone because I have been doing full-blown Rally Championships, which will go for three days at a time rather than 30 seconds.

Travis Pastrana will race the 2014 LA GRC
Pastrana will compete at the 2014 LA GRC © Ben

So you feel like you're pretty comfortable behind the wheel right now?

Very comfortable behind the wheel. It’s a little bit of a different form, and the car is more powerful. We should be able to get one test day in before the next round, and we competed at X Games this year as well. I didn’t have the best result there, although I qualified fifth, but the speed is close.

I’m all about Straight Rhythm... Jumps were always my thing, turns were kind of…not.

You also have another big race coming up with Red Bull Straight Rhythm. The last time you actually raced a dirt bike was back in 2009 at the St. Louis Supercross, a track you designed. How are you feeling?

I think that was 2006 or 2007.

No, it was in 2009.

Oh, wow! I’m way more relevant than I thought I was! Honestly I’m all about Straight Rhythm. I wish it had been invented a long time ago. I couldn’t not do it because jumps were always my thing, turns were kind of…not.

Turns as a taller rider are a little bit harder.

Yeah, and I was also around before the scrub, so this could be a really bad thing for me, but there was just no way to not do it. With the whoops and everything I think it will be good.

They still scrub jumps going straight too, you know...

They do! I rode at (Ryan) Villopoto’s house the other day, and the ruts on the jump faces all go off to the side. I was like, “How do you do that? Where are you going to? Where does this line go?” But, to make up for that I have a 500.

I am a two-stroke guy. I don’t know how to ride a four-stroke; I can’t start a four-stroke.

What is the deal with that? I would imagine that you’re on a Suzuki?

Yes, yes -- it’s an RM-Zilla.

Talk about the project. Who made the bike?

It is just awesome. The guys at Service Suzuki put it together. It’s cool because now I can run factory suspension and all of the setup of the RM-Z450. The frame is brand new so I can go with the newest of the new equipment. It feels good and the ergonomics are good.

Everyone was telling me there was no way I could compete on a two-stroke, but I am a two-stroke guy. I don’t know how to ride a four-stroke; I can’t start a four-stroke. I was like, “Alright, we’re going to be under-powered. How do we fix this?” So now I have more horsepower than anyone on the track.

Had you ever ridden a 500 before?

I’ve played around on them. We hydroplaned one -- they go a lot further because they’re a lot faster. Hubert, everyone’s favorite redneck, set up an awesome Straight Rhythm course for me, although it’s only one-fifth the distance of what I’ll be competing on. Look (shows his palms), I have blisters right now. I’ve actually been riding.

For more info, check out the official Red Bull Straight Rhythm and Red Bull Global Rallycross sites.

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