- Dominik Wilde
Pastrana: ARA as strong as any other championship
Travis Pastrana feels that the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National series is more than a match for other well-established national series across the world, and thinks that the international attention the series is garnering is evidence of that.
A growing Irish contingent, headed by 2020 ARA Champion Barry McKenna, frequently participates in ARA events, while rising star Oliver Solberg ran a partial campaign with Subaru in 2019 as he climbed the ladder to the WRC.
Speaking at the recent Goodwood Festival of Speed in the UK, Pastrana said that US rallying was “already there” in terms of potentially rivalling more established national championships in Europe.
“It's been awesome, and I really think just with the amount of competition that's been coming over, and how many people just talking to here at Goodwood that are pumped about coming to the US to rally has been really cool," Pastrana told DirtFish.
“Higgins kept our pace up,” he added, referring to 10-time US champion and Isle of Man native David Higgins who will make his ARA return this weekend.
“I think most people that come over, they're very surprised with how quick the US rally championship really is and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more guys try their hand and when you start getting bigger names over, hopefully we can continue doing as well as we're doing against them. That's really going to draw some more attention."
US rallying is currently enjoying one of its most successful periods, with five-time champion Pastrana, McKenna, Pastrana’s Subaru team-mate Brandon Semenuk and Ken Block all vying for this year’s title.
“It couldn't be better,” Pastrana continued. “We're getting a hundred sign-ups for [a] US rally, which is awesome. We've got Brandon Semenuk who's bringing in a whole different audience, and then you've got obviously Ken Block coming back, it's just everyone that was like, 'oh, how big is that for the sport?'
“The Hoonigan Media Machine as they call themselves, they're amazing. They bring so much interest, so much hype, and it's just awesome to have all of us in the same car.
“McKenna has done so much for the sport as well. I was just talking to someone today [Marty McCormack] that's like, yeah, I'm coming over to run the R5 at the next round. And, you know, he's here at Goodwood and they're bringing all the Irish contingent and giving really an affordable place to race, really good competition and really great vehicles and I hope the sport just keeps growing.”
Four rounds into the 2021 season, Pastrana looks to be in control of the championship with four wins to McKenna’s one - but the Nitro Circus ringleader isn’t counting his rivals out by any means.
“You can throw out three rounds in ARA, so when you look at it with three rounds thrown out, I have a first and McKenna has a first,” he said. “So it's anyone's ballgame.
“I know Brandon Semenuk was definitely the quickest at round three [Olympus] and had an unfortunate off, so if you look at the guys that had been the quickest at the first three rounds or the first four rounds, I was second in one but I was able to win three so very fortunate, very happy to be where we are.
“It's the best place to be, but by no means is this championship over. So really there's four of us that still believe we're going to win.”
The fifth and next round of the ARA is the New England Forest Rally this weekend (July 30-31).