Q&A: Travis Pastrana World Record Rally Car Jump

Dec 29, 2009
Outside Magazine

RVE_Pastrana_Testing_12_04_09_9121 On New Year’s Eve, 26-year-old motorsports phenom Travis Pastrana will attempt the longest car jump in history, launching off a steel ramp at around 100 miles per hour and landing more than 200 feet away. To make it interesting, he’s decided to jump off a pier in Long Beach, California, and land on a floating barge—meaning a few feet short and he’s in the water; left or right and he’ll be swimming too. Yes, it’s crazy. To find out how crazy, we caught up with the nine-time X-Games gold medalist while he was preparing for takeoff.
-- Ryan Krogh

How do you come up with a stunt like this?
Basically, Red Bull send out an email asking their athletes what is the craziest thing they can do to progress their sport. I won the lottery this year, unfortunately. 

Ideally, how does the jump go down?
Well, ideally I’ll hit the ramp at around 100 miles per hour, the car will land in the sweet spot of the landing ramp, and I’ll stop before the end of the barge and call it a night.

Sounds simple enough.
Yeah. [Laughs.] Actually, the testing is the most difficult part of the jump. We went through a few cars along the way.

GM_211009_PASTRANANYNL_0355 Really? How many?
Well, we only totaled one. But we’ve gone through a lot of other parts and pieces. If I can hit it right on the sweet spot it looks easy. But the problem with the car is if you are two feet short or two feet long, it’s not like a motorcycle where you can soak it up with your body. It hits like a ton of bricks and bounces.

When you’re jumping the car, do you go by specific gauges or by feel?
You go a lot more by feel on a jump like this because you’re not jumping to a stationary object. On a motorcycle, you’ll feel the wind with your body so you know how to adjust. But with the car, I’ll have to rely on a lot of the wind gauges. We had a 17 mile and hour side wind one day and I had to actually aim off the landing ramp, and the wind blew the car back on. And it blew the car sideways so I had to turn into the wind and hold the gas on, which will bring the car back level. And this all has to be done with what you see rather than what you feel. And that’s very difficult.     

How do you feel now about the jump?
I feel good. We’ve done everything we can to assure the best outcome. But live events are always difficult. You just never know what you’re going to get. And it doesn’t matter what the weather conditions are like—it’s go time. This isn’t a math equation. If you aim towards the wind and there’s a lull, you just fly straight into the water. I’ll hope that doesn’t happen.

How do you come up with this stuff?
My life has been one long bucket list. You set a goal and when you accomplish that goal you figure out something else.

RVE_Pastrana_Testing_12_03_09_9018 Ok. But how do you decide you want jump out of an airplane without a parachute, which you did? Had you even skydived before?
I dive into a sport just long enough to know what I’m doing and then do what I want to do. With the skydive, I saw Point Break, where Johnny Utah jumps out of a plane without a parachute. I’m not a good skydiver, but after a few years I got a team together who was willing to do it, and I totally trusted them and we pulled it off. 

Everybody has one sport or activity they think is crazy. What’s yours?
I have a lot of respect for all the sports, but one sport that I look at as being a little out there is big-wave surfing. You trust that those guys know what they’re doing and know the risk, but it seems a little wild.

Really? Why big-wave surfing?
Well, ironically with this barge jump, I’m really afraid of drowning.

See the jump live on ESPN at 11pm ET on December 31. And check out this insane video of him trashing a car in practice.

Filed To: Adventure, Celebrities

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