Tailored to Launch

By Roberto C. Hernandez

Posted December 23, 2009 in Feature Story

Johnny Knoxville told him not to fake it.


So when Travis Pastrana attempts to break the world record for a long distance jump in a rally car—and keep from ending up at the bottom of a Long Beach harbor—it’s going to be the real deal. No stunt doubles. No green screen. No CGI. No camera tricks.


The first ever ramp-to-ramp car jump over water—the Pacific Ocean, no less—will be all him.

And if this sounds like a crazy, this-guy-must-be-outta-his-mind kind of stunt, keep in mind that Pastrana’s the same dude who jumped out of an airplane without a parachute and BASE jumped into the Grand Canyon off a speeding motorcycle. Balls? Pastrana’s got ’em in spades.


And if this feat wasn’t high-profile enough, the action sports icon’s attempt to bust into the record books on Dec. 31 as part of the “Red Bull: New Year. No Limits” celebration—which will be televised live on ESPN in front of thousands of revelers. 


Let’s be honest, though. Pastrana’d do this stunt if it was set for Chinese New Year.


“To me, it doesn’t matter if you’re doing this on Christmas or New Year’s or Friday the 13th,” Pastrana, who now sports a Murrieta zip code, tells the Weekly at Red Bull’s North American headquarters in Santa Monica. “It’s just another day to have a good time.”


And a good time for this guy usually involves jumping out of things, leaping over stuff or riding something with a dangerously revved-up engine.


“Seat of the Pants”

For his latest feat, Pastrana plans on driving a Subaru rally car across a ramp off the Pine Street pier in Long Beach, nailing something in the neighborhood of 90 to 100 miles per hour and jumping—hopefully—250 feet onto a floating barge anchored in Rainbow Harbor.


Pastrana’s gunning to break the 171-foot jump set by fellow stunt freak (we mean rally driver) Ken Block.


On paper, the stunt should work. But, oh, those pesky unknowns . . . 


“We’re gonna make this so you can’t figure it out mathematically,” he says. “You can get close with the math, but the barge is gonna be going up and down, side to side; the wind is a factor, it’s live, you’re never gonna have a chance to come down that runway and see exactly how fast the car’s gonna get up to.”


“This is gonna be a kind of seat-of-the-pants, off-the-hip thing.”


If Pastrana’s successful, he will be the third motorsports athlete—the other two are Robbie Maddison and Rhys Millen—to signal the start of a new year by breaking boundaries, breaking records and risking their necks in front of droves of adoring, Red Bull-chugging fans.


But is this simply for the decadent rush? I mean, Pastrana’s got extreme sports cred from here to the Triple Crown. His resume—nine X Games gold medals, four consecutive Rally American championships, the first double backflip on a motorcycle—reads like an adrenaline junkie’s wet dream.


Much like Sir Edmund Hillary’s “because it’s there” rationale, Pastrana’s just out to prove that he can pull off a highly difficult and dangerous stunt.


“I want to be able to do something, to say you can’t just put a monkey in a car and have him do this,” he says. “There’re a lot of variables. It’s gonna make it really challenging. I like challenges.”


Nitro Fueled

Oh, and did we mention that Pastrana, 26, also has his own show on MTV; Nitro Circus, a celebration of All Things Dirtbikes and Reckless.


It was when Pastrana entered MTV circles (Nitro started as a Fuse TV broadcast before graduating to become an MTV reality show) that he got a bit of advice from Jackass daredevil Johnny Knoxville.


Knoxville told him, “‘If you fake one thing, everything else that you’ve ever done is in question,’” Pastrana recalls.


Towards that end, Nitro Circus’ bread and butter has included all manner of dangerous exploits involving BMX bikes, BASE jumping, extreme skiing, mountain biking, you name it.


And heeding Knoxville’s urgings, Pastrana’s kept all stunts real-deal Holyfield. 


“Yeah, you can probably fool a lot of people and do some really cool stuff, but for us we don’t,” he says. “We don’t want to fool anyone. We want to do it because we think it’s impossible, we think it’s cool.”


And, of course, something cool is bound to mean someone gets hurt sometimes.


“It’s harder to impress people when they’re using computers and we’re using people,” Pastrana says. “But, in the long run it’s more fun that way.”


“The media, the fans, the people, they’ve been so jaded by movies and green screen and this and that,” he continues. “No, let’s get back to the roots, let’s do this for real, you know.”


Ready for Takeoff

Also more fun is using a regular ol‘ rally car for his Grim Reaper-snubbing jump.


“We wanted to keep this as close to the roots as possible, back to the old days, you know, Dukes of Hazzard,” Pastrana says. “Let’s do something that people can relate to. I mean, I’m driving a car with a suspension that’s stiffer, but it’s still a car you can basically buy off the lot. It’s got a roll cage, it’s got stiff suspension but as far as the motor goes, as far as everything else, it’s basically something you can build relatively inexpensively—not that I’m encouraging anyone to go do it.”


That being said, Pastrana’s not shy about his exploits, which have included crashing trying to complete a 50-foot 360 during the 2004 X Games (he suffered a concussion, competed the next day and won the silver), racking up rally car titles and jumping out of an airplane in 2007 over Puerto Rico and landing after latching onto a fellow jumper with a chute.


“I’ve jumped pretty much every vehicle, anything with wheels I’ve jumped,” he says. “Anything that can fly, I’ve made it fly.”


Next on the flight plan: Long Beach.


Of course, it’s something to say that Pastrana’s Red Bull stunt is slated to take place during the world’s biggest bash.


“There’s no bigger party, there’s no more fun that you can have than New Year’s Eve,” he says. “And to do this right at the beginning, and kick it off and have all your friends out there is just an excuse to have a good time.”


And what about the post-stunt afterparty?


“Really, it depends on how the jump goes,” he jokes. “If I’m at the bottom of the pier unconscious, I’ll probably end up not partying as much.”


A Danny Way Moment

Just don’t date yourself and go calling this stunt Pastrana’s Evel Knievel moment. We’re talking Generation X Games here.


“For me, this is my [skateboarder] Danny Way moment,” he confesses. “This is my jumping off the Great Wall of China. This is my Mat Hoffman, my first 900 [BMX trick involving two and a half rotations]. This is my Ken Block.”


In the end, Pastrana’s definitely cool with shrugging off comments questioning his sanity or wondering if a death wish is hardwired into his DNA.


“It’s really just going through life trying to have as much fun as you possibly can and trying to push yourself and, really, waking up every morning with something that you’re passionate about.”


For more info about Travis Pastrana and his Red Bull stunt, go to www.travispastrana.com, www.redbullnewyearnolimits.com.


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