High-pressure is no problem for SRTUSA co-driver Robbie Durant, Travis Pastrana’s No. 1 man.
There’s a dark joke among rally racers that if you’re going to crash, you do it on the co-driver’s side of the car. It’s funny – sort of – until that moment draws nigh, and you’re the co-driver, and the right rear tire slides off the roadway and hangs over the edge of a cliff.
Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant. Photo: © Ben Haulenbeek, subaru.com/rally 2017
Robbie Durant, 36, was the co-driver that day, and of all the maniacs who could be behind the wheel, there sat Travis Pastrana.
Travis Pastrana. Say the name slowly as you envision a man hurtling through the air, his hands gripping the handlebars of a motocross bike, doing a double backflip, and then sticking the landing.
Travis Pastrana. X Games® multiple gold medalist, daredevil racer of anything with horsepower, apparent adrenaline addict, most successful motocross racer ever, four-time rally champion in North America (2006-2010).
Travis Pastrana. The reincarnation of Evel Knievel, but with an even bigger set of brass knuckles to beat back any trace of fear.
Watch Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant take on the Oregon Trail Rally, 2017
In the print version of our profile, Robbie Durant talks at length about this stage of the Oregon Trail Rally. Lucky for us, Subaru Rally Team USA posted the entire stage on YouTube. Be sure to watch until the end for Pastrana’s quote.
During the past two years, Pastrana and Durant have driven hell-for-leather to become the most sensational team in rally racing. In August 2017, piloting a WRX STI for SRTUSA, Pastrana and Durant narrowly edged fellow team members David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew to capture the 2017 American Rally Association (ARA) Championship Title.
It’s vitally important to mention both the driver and co-driver when discussing rally racing. Durant shares the ARA crown with Pastrana for a very good reason: No matter how skilled a driver is, he would win precisely zero races without an equally skilled co-driver.
“Unlike other parts of the racing world, with rally, it’s the co-driver, the driver, and the car against the elements,” Durant says. “It’s up to you to work as a team to get as much out of yourselves, and the car, as you can.”
Born in Wales and raised in England, where he currently lives, Durant cites his experience as a driver as a key to his success as a co-driver. “I grew up driving on farms, in fields and off-road, from age 12 or 13,” he says. “Kart racing, ATVs, dirt bikes …”
Twice a British Jr. Rally Champion and the 2WD Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion in 2012, Durant has also raced in the World Rally Championship, Chinese Rally Championship, Rally America and in many events across Europe.
Travis Pastrana slides his Subaru WRX STI at the Oregon Trail Rally. Photo: © Lars Gange, subaru.com/rally 2017
It’s up to you to work as a team to get as much out of yourselves, and the car, as you can.
His success did not go unnoticed by Pastrana, who, after some time away from rally, re-entered the sport full-time in 2016. Durant’s mentor had been renowned driver David Higgins, but in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, Pastrana and Durant took on Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew head-to-head.
With just six races on the ARA schedule in 2017 (in previous years there had been eight), the importance of winning not just more events but also more stages increased dramatically. Pastrana and Durant learned this the hard way, finishing second to Higgins and Drew in the 2016 season.
And so, Durant knew it would be imperative to get off to a strong start the following season. For the first race, the Oregon Trail, in April 2017, he prepared his pace notes with the utmost care and detail. In this nine-minute YouTube video you can hear Durant during the second day’s hill-climb stage, reading the notes, guiding Pastrana into and out of every straight and corner.
“It makes for a very close and intense relationship between the two people in the car, and really relies 100 percent on trust,” Durant says. “When the speed picks up, the timing is split-second. Literally a fraction of a second in the note delivery can make the difference between the driver being ready to register the note, and it being too late.”
After running the hill climb once, Durant says, he and Pastrana felt there was room for improvement on one turn – which hugged the edge of a ravine about 200 feet on the co-driver’s side of the car. “We looked at one another and said, ‘Well, we could have gone in there a bit hotter. We could have found another half-second or, at least, a couple of tenths in there.’”
For the second run, Durant edited the pace notes to have Pastrana brake later in the turn. In the YouTube video, the expletive-censoring bleeping comes at the 4-minute-43-second mark. That’s when the right-rear tire leaves the roadway.
“We had headed into the same turn, but this time, we were super-hot, and braked maybe 4 or 5 meters too late,” Durant says. “We both thought, ‘OK, this is going to be nasty. At that point it didn’t really matter which side of the car you were sitting on – we were both going off the exposure. The rear wheel of the car on my side was hanging over the edge of the exposure, and Travis was absolutely pinned on the throttle, trying to pull the car back onto the road. It did – the car popped back up onto the road. And there was a little hesitation on the part of both of us. But we got back into rhythm pretty fast.”
Fast enough to win the race – and set the table for emerging months later as the season’s champions.
However, both men were well-aware that luck played a part in the Oregon victory. You know this because the soundtrack to the video ends with this exchange:
Pastrana: “Oh, I’m so sorry, man.”
Durant: “It’s okay.”
Pastrana: “Nah, we almost died.”
And with that, Durant lets out a short burst of nervous laughter.
“When something like that happens,” Durant says, reflecting on the close call, “you have different phases of reaction. First is, like, What the hell is happening here? And then, Well, that was kind of fun … because you know you’ve survived.”
Travis Pastrana and co-driver Robbie Durant won the 2017 Oregon Trail Rally in a 2017 Subaru WRX STI. Photos: © Ben Haulenbeek, subaru.com/rally 2017