Travis Pastrana on a rollercoaster Extreme E debut at the Desert X Prix

20 February 2024, London: He may have only turned the wheel of an ODYSSEY 21 in anger for the first time on the morning of Free Practice for the Desert X Prix, but off-road racing legend Travis Pastrana made quite the impression on his Extreme E debut.

Partnering Gray Leadbetter at LEGACY MOTOR CLUB IN ASSOCIATION WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON (LEGACY M.C.) while Johnson was competing in the Daytona 500, Pastrana put on a show in Rounds 1 and 2 of Season 4.

Despite being a late arrival into Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, not to mention recovering from a recent knee replacement operation, Pastrana showed the potential of the LEGACY M.C. outfit with two gutsy displays in the opening X Prix of the championship, as well as supporting the exceptional development of Leadbetter in what was also her maiden Extreme E weekend.

Although unable to reach a Grand Final at the Desert X Prix, not to mention defeat long-time adversary Mattias Ekström (we’ll get to that!), Pastrana revelled in his first Extreme E event. Here’s the thoughts of the man himself reflecting on LEGACY M.C.’s first-ever X Prix in the series.

Extreme E: Welcome to Extreme E, Travis! Can you tell us about the moment you got the call to come and join the series in Saudi Arabia?
Travis Pastrana: I got the call from Jimmie not too long ago, actually. He said, ‘hey, I really want to do something off-road and something in Extreme E, and there might be an opportunity to join’. We’re fairly good friends, but we’re either doing something together or our lives are years apart and we are in different worlds. So when he called, I figured that means that it’s serious and to count me in. I said that if you can make it happen I’ve got that weekend off. Well, I was meant to be on family vacation, but I said I’ll go!

Because the big picture of this, for LEGACY M.C. in particular, is huge for motorsport and it’s huge for off-road in general.

XE: What did you know of Extreme E beforehand as well as the drivers that compete in it?
TP: I’m a huge fan of racing. I come across as a little goofy sometimes, but I’m just like a kid in a candy shop when I go to races. I knew Jimmie wasn’t going to do this without a proper team and they’ve exceeded everyone’s hope.

It is a very friendly paddock, too. It is the first time I have gotten to spend time with a few of them, especially some of the women drivers, while some I know from competing in Nitrocross. The two drivers that I don’t get to race a lot of the time are Johan Kristofferson and Mattias Ekström and I have to say that going up against Ekström was kind of the cherry on top for me to compete – maybe that was the sweetener!

XE: The series has a pioneering gender-equal racing format, which is unique in motorsport. What are your thoughts on that aspect to the championship?
TP: There is no reason why a woman cannot be better than a male driver in cars. It’s not a physical thing, it’s an experience thing. As a father with two girls I think it’s awesome – there’s so many opportunities to get girls into karts and buggies, and it brings the whole family closer instead of what used to happen in motocross – where the fathers and the sons would go, and now it’s the fathers, daughters, mums and sons, too. Everyone is coming together across motorsport, however Extreme E is the first series to really show that.

In one of the races I was second trying to close Mikaela [Åhlin-Kottulinsky] down and I could not get near her. There has definitely been a massive improvement from the first year of Extreme E to now, four seasons in, regarding the pace of the women drivers, which has been astronomical. More women are now not only getting the chance to race in Extreme E, but test themselves in other cars and championships, boosting their skills on a track and off-road – that’s cool.

XE: How quickly were you able to get dialled into the LEGACY M.C. ODYSSEY 21 and the series’ racing format?
TP: There’s so much to contend with in this championship and that’s undoubtedly where drivers like Ekström and Kristofferson, and the teams that are winning, are dialled in on those processes and make limited mistakes. From my perspective, driving the car on the second lap is about as good in a vehicle as I’m going to get in anything, and the last few seconds of a lap come from not necessarily taking chances, but being willing to go and to drive on the edge. I was driving on two wheels for half of the track!

A big thing, though, was not crashing the car for Jimmie. He hasn’t said that out loud, but you don’t want a big shunt in your opening weekend competing in this series. Nevertheless, in Round 2 we were close to the Grand Final, and so I turned up a little bit of the risk – within reason, of course. We knew what we had to do and the risk was going to be the pay-out. It was close. We had a shot as a team to be in there and we were gutted to just miss out.

XE: What did you make of Gray’s Extreme E debut?
TP: Her progress has been incredible. In Round 1, as soon as Kevin Hansen passed her, she didn’t panic and just put her foot down in the dust – she turned in some of the fastest sectors from the women all day. That takes guts.

And then in Round 2, it took Kristofferson a lap to get around her. I mean he’s arguably the best driver in this discipline in the entire world. I’ve jumped in everything in terms of racing, so getting into a new vehicle or an ODYSSEY 21 isn’t an excuse because I’ve seen most things, but Gray is just 19. She’s so new. She’s done a lot, of course, but is still learning. I am so proud of her and how well she’s done on her first weekend in the series.

XE: Do you think the appetite for Extreme E in the US will grow as result of LEGACY M.C. joining the series?
TP: A big reason that I’m over here now is that I feel that this series is helping off-road racing to grow, and it’s helping bridge the gap for electric. My Dad’s generation would say that if it doesn’t make noise and burn gas, it’s difficult. However, there is so much quality in the field in Extreme E, and now we have the likes of Jimmie Johnson involved, so its building momentum.

What the series has going for it, too, is a lot of great racing. The Round 1 Grand Final was exceptional – it was one of the best races I’ve ever seen in my whole life. When people see the racing as good as it is, that helps a lot in terms of converting people to electric and sustainable racing. From there, they can then see it’s way faster than they first thought. Green technologies and power aside, we have to show that it can be as exciting or more exciting than what people may know. That last part is key and then people will be hooked.

There is definitely a gap to be bridged in motorsport. Extreme H and hydrogen development is also going to be a great thing going forward. My kids don’t want to touch anything with gas. They love electric bikes because they can go out in anyone’s back yard if they have an acre and run around – even when they are at a barbeque or something like that. I couldn’t do that as a kid because the bikes were too loud, so the change is coming.

XE: On reflection, how would you sum up your Extreme E debut?
TP: It’s exceeded my expectations. As far as the excitement in the ODYSSEY 21 goes, you can really race and you have a big desert or terrain to really do it in, of course, rather than a narrower circuit. It challenges the car and it challenges the drivers. It is a really cool championship.

XE: Would you like to give it another go this season (and beyond!)?
TP: Absolutely! I really hope to have another opportunity to do this again this year with a knee that can get in and out of the car – and also to come back with a little more knowledge!

I was also so close to ticking off that bucket list item of beating Mattias [Ekström]. We were just 0.6s off in that last Redemption Race and so I would absolutely love another shot at it.

To learn more about Extreme E, visit – www.Extreme-E.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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