Global motorsport superstar and stuntman Travis Pastrana has told talkSPORT how his back-breaking faster-than-Formula 1 Nitro Rallycross series has brought the fear factor back to British motorsport.
The multiple X Game gold medallist and world record holder sees the 2022/23 edition of his arrive at the birthplace of the sport, Lydden Hill in Kent, welcoming the likes of F1 world champion Jenson Button and British rally star Chris Meek.
The sport takes the danger, flat-out speed and excitement of rally and puts drivers on a circuit together, bashing wheels with stunning results.
Having attracted a multitude of huge names from across motorsport, Pastrana himself brings some Hollywood glamour to the sport having starred in his own TV show and movie, but he also provides far more.
The NitroRX series brings 100 feet jumps and standardised cars, taking away the F1 cliche of ‘the driver with the fastest car wins’ and Pastrana’s aims are clear.
“Our goal is to make the tracks as exciting for the drivers as it is for the fans,” he said. “We want to do certain tracks where the drivers are scared.
“I feel like in F1 you’re always against your teammate, here there’s 10 of us and all of us expect to win, so someone who expects to win is going to get last. Someone who can literally get last on a track like this and then win in Phoenix in the US.
“Every driver assumes they’re the best and if they have equal machinery they can win so I think that’s helpful for us, egos are good.
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“The car that everyone is driving is the exact same, and instead of going back to your engineer and saying ‘I want more torque, I want more top end’ I can change everything about that vehicle on the fly.
“So as a driver in this race I can constantly be making my car perform better on the fly, that’s something you could only do in video games, now it’s real life.”
While safety is unequivocally the number one concern for Pastrana, he believes series such as F1 and NASCAR has seen its cars and circuits so sanitised now that there’s no room for bravery.
He explained: “In most NASCAR and most sports you can’t take risks to make gains, NitroRX brings that back, instead of going out on the track and worrying about lap times, they’re worrying about making it round.
“Every single person out there is nervous and the fans want to feel that and if the drivers are excited the fans are too.
“Let’s get people off the video games, let’s get them out there and let’s get them racing, high tide floats all ships and I don’t care what racing they get into, let’s go have some fun and let’s get outdoors.”
It’s not all fun and games though, with the former NASCAR driver experiencing a number of terrifying injuries such as dislocating his spine.
But as the first man to professionally complete a double backflip on a motocross bike and attempt the same in a monster truck, he knows as well as his competitors what they’re getting into.
He said: “We’ve had two broken backs but they weren’t on the big jumps, generally on the big jumps everyone takes it pretty seriously.
“It’s jumps like this that everyone thinks they’re safe on, but if I have a perfect drive out of this corner and don’t lift, I’m breaking my back as I’m going straight to flat.
“Everybody knows the risk and I like the safety aspects, we were the first ones to have airbag landings, you can still get hurt but let’s help these guys get back up and not be paralyzed or killed or have their lives ruined over a circus trick.”
Not only is the fear factor brought back, but so are unrelenting speeds and circuits purpose built for the sport, a stark contrast to F1, as Pastrana explained.
“The Miami F1 track was horrible!” he said. “The WRX came over to Texas to COTA [Circuit of the Americas, which is also used in F1] and they said it was a million and a half dollar track.
“I was like ‘what did you spend the money on?’ I hadn’t even finished walking the track and I was bored, how do you expect people to want to see this? It’s just follow the leader.”
While Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are doing 0-60mph in 2.6 seconds, former F1 star Jenson Button will be doing 1.4 alongside Pastrana, or possibly even less.
“This new electric car, I’m kind of on the fence, I guess it’s the way with the future but they are so fast, it knocks the wind out of you, you can’t hear anything.
“The car turned up on a prepped surface I reckon you could go one second, but it’s 1.4 on what they’re going to be using.”
Lydden Hill is hosting the most extreme rallycross race in its history, but Pastrana doesn’t want to stop there.
He said: “The general idea is to show the Europeans and the racers and the young kids here how the cars fly and understanding how the jump works and then eventually take out the middle where you can cross under.
“We’ve been talking to Kimi [Raikkonen] a bit, he’s awesome, it’s been really good to see Jenson step up.
“Our thing is let’s get the best drivers that we can, let’s get the best tracks that we can and let’s get the best show that we can and this will grow organically.”
That growth has already begun with last season’s inaugural year only on US soil, now 2022 has gone global, just like Pastrana has done throughout his career.
The success of Netflix F1 series Drive to Survive has brought a whole new audience to the world of motorsport, and once they see what’s going on in Lydden Hill, they may soon be switching over.
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