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Old 04-11-2007, 02:14 PM   #1
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Default An interesting Travis Pastrana and Subaru article from RACER magazine via SPEED TV

Travis Pastrana: Handling the Pressure
Written by: Bill Wood, for RACER Magazine

Drivers always say they don’t feel external pressures to do well or win. Most are lying but I believe Travis Pastrana when he said there’s no amount of money that could pay for the pressure and “make me do the work necessary to be the best.” He said very few would work as hard as Ricky Carmichael even if they were paid five million a year to ride.

“I’m going to do my best when I get there because I’m a competitor.”

Pastrana’s last public opportunity to handle pressure came last month at the Rally of Mexico where he finished fifth in class and 15th overall in his first World Rally Championship competition. A stat line like that means little until you realize that behind Travis were rally teams with five or six years of international rally experience. Before Mexico Travis had none.

“Once I got confidence in the notes my times came way down.” Pace notes are shorthand route instructions that rally teams use to get across the road as fast as possible even describing what’s on the other side of a blind crest or around a blind corner. They were written a couple days before the rally with co-driver Christian Edstrom.

No longer note-challenged, Travis said they were “competitive with the fastest teams in our class.”

That class is the Production Car WRC category, a class created in 2002 to replace the more stock Group N cars. PWRC cars are mechanically identical to showroom cars with modifications to improve driver safety. For comparison, Pastrana said the full-on techno missile WRC cars were four seconds a mile faster on the same roads in Mexico.

“I continue to learn,” Travis told me, “and that’s what this year and these P-WRC events will be… learning.” The P-WRC events are much faster and more intense than the U.S. events he’s used to running. Each day there were more stage miles in Mexico than the total on an average three-day American rally. Travis will have enormously more experience, more intense experience and more competitive experience when he returns to the U.S. Rally America series.

We’ll know right away. Pastrana and Edstrom return to defending their Rally America championship at the Oregon Trail Rally in Portland April 20-22. Andrew Pinker, a New Zealander with European rally experience, won Oregon Trail last year despite a late Pastrana charge. Don’t expect a rerun this season!

Mark Higgins, a Brit with U.S. experience had an impact on Pastrana’s good fortune in Mexico. In 2002 Higgins helped Hyundai pocket a sixth U.S. manufacturer’s title before Hyundai pulled out of the sport in America. Higgins is a three-time British Rally Champion with two top ten overall finishes at the Rally of Great Britain, the Daytona 500/Super Bowl of the WRC. Last month in Mexico, Higgins won the PWRC class leaving him fourth in season points after two of eight events. Travis is ninth after just one event with two to play.

“Higgins came around to make sure I was doing well and answered questions I had,” Travis told me. “That was big of him. He’s run in the U.S. and his brother David Higgins (the first independent champion in 30 years when he won the U.S. title in 2002) has coached me in the past.”

Now, follow me because I’m about to take some license here. Mark Higgins lists his “likes” as endurance bikes, cycling, swimming and R/C helicopters on his website. It’s not out of the question that Mark, himself a rally coach in Britain, and Pastrana would be close friends if they weren’t competitors on the track and for the attention of Subaru worldwide. You see, Higgins also drives a Subaru. No doubt he wants to be on the same world stage as Travis. Again, this is just my opinion. The nurturing that Higgins demonstrated in Mexico may not continue now that Travis has showed he could be a competitor in the P-WRC and, eventually, with Subaru. Pastrana won’t go there with me.

One of us: Pastrana got the attention of WRC
stalwarts such as Petter Solberg in Mexico.

“That’s the way rally people are, they help each other. It’s a different environment from other kinds of racing.” On that he’s right but Higgins has battled a long time to get to – and stay on! – the world stage. Let’s see what happens when Travis and his Vermont Sports Car team get to P-WRC events in Argentina and Great Britain as is the plan for this season.

Will Pastrana’s success in Mexico accelerate the Vermont Sports Car plans to have Travis full time in the P-WRC next year and, perhaps, in the full WRC after that?

“Our current plan for the next few years remains the same,” said Lance Smith, the principle at Vermont Sports Car. “Our results both from the marketing and performance points of view show we are on the correct path with Travis, Subaru of America and his other sponsors.”

Smith said he was pleasantly surprised at how easily the rest of the rally world accepted Travis in Mexico. I’m told some of the other team members were asking for access to the VSC pits where they could talk with Pastrana or get an autograph.

“We told the World Rally community about a year ago we wanted to enter the WRC and we made it quite public,” Smith said, “so they had time to think about it and I believe the WRC community has a real desire for someone as exciting and energetic as Travis. Having an American based team doesn't hurt either.”

Some major WRC names agree with Lance. Travis said 2003 WRC champion and Subaru’s rally headliner worldwide Petter Solberg “came and talked with me in Mexico to make sure I was doing OK.” Solberg was leading at the time before he broke and went out of the event.

Two-time WRC champion (2000 and 2002) and current points leader Marcus Gronholm “used to ride motocross before his knees gave out,” Pastrana said. “The quote of the rally came at the end when he saw me go over the ramp in fifth place. He said he was surprised to even see me finish!”

Travis and his teammate Ken Block kept a great blog (www.rally.Subaru.com) of their efforts at the Rally of Mexico. Block rolled early in the event and wasn’t a factor in the results but there’s still lots to see and read in his blog.

Those who followed an injury-prone, teenaged Travis in Supercross might be surprised at his rally success which includes the U.S. championship last season. Travis is a far more mature 23 now and more patient as a competitor. How would he do if he got back onto a motorcycle?

“I am more patient. And, if I could care less, I might do better. But I am a competitor and that would be hard. What’s more incredible is looking at how fast they’re going now especially James Stewart. I still ride and I have friends I ride with who still compete. I know how fast they are but James is making them look like C riders. The sport may have left me already.

“They’re talking about having Supercross in the X Games this summer. Maybe a six lap event. A lot of people are calling me asking me to run and I probably could get into condition to run six laps but that would be hard and take a lot of time.

“I’m a rally driver now.” And a more patient, mature competitor who is better equipped to handle the external pressures of an international spotlight and stage.

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Old 04-11-2007, 02:36 PM   #2
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Good read. Can't wait to see what he does in the future.
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Old 04-11-2007, 02:53 PM   #3
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Go Travis. PWRC looks so fun, I think I will go buy a powerball ticket.
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Old 04-11-2007, 11:28 PM   #4
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Nice article.

Lets not forget that his "ballest" has a lot to do with his achievements.
I got your back Christian!
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