I once rode in a rally car with Travis Pastrana around a tight X Games track and the experience was a harrowing blur, not unlike a ride on a mega-roller coaster.
I would not like to be in Pastrana's car tonight as he rings in the new year by jumping his street-legal Subaru more than 250 feet from a ramp on the Pine Street Pier in Long Beach to a barge near the Queen Mary.
The freestyle motocross legend and perennial X Games star, who now races rally cars professionally, told me the idea was born on the simple premise of how far a person might be able to fly in a car. He plans to jump between 250-270 feet, shattering the world record of 171 feet, set by friend and fellow adrenaline junkie Ken Block.
The jump is part of the annual Red Bull: New Year, No Limits extravaganza and will be televised on ESPN beginning at 8 p.m. PST.
Pastrana, who will use a hand-brake and throttle to control his car's trajectory, will play the wind much like a golfer. But if his shot is errant, he concedes, it's the player who will suffer the consequences, which could be serious if you consider he'll hit the takeoff ramp at about 100 mph and will travel more than 25 feet over water and must land smoothly in a sweet spot to avoid ending up in the chilly harbor.
Fortunately, he'll have three strategically-placed scuba tanks in his car and the city of Long Beach has graciously agreed to surround the barge with rescue personnel.
At a media gathering Wednesday, Pastrana was repeatedly asked if he was afraid to die and what his mom thinks. These questions came from people who don't know Pastrana's long history of craziness. He has made a living progressing action sports to daunting new heights and suffered many broken bones along the way.
A former supercross racer, he has jumped his motorcycle into the grand canyon and he's perhaps most famous for successfully nailing the first double black-flip during a freestyle motocross best-trick competition (at the X Games in 2006).
Still, he said, this Rally car jump "is huge" by comparison, in terms of potential consequences. His landing will have to be smooth and it can't be long or he'll bounce or careen into the water. He acknowledged being "scared to death" but said that peacefulness will reign once his car is airborne.
"Time slows down and everything goes quiet," he said of the feeling. "It's just you up there and it's the only time in your life when nothing else matters."
Here's hoping for a smooth landing and a happy, healthy new year for one of action sports' most entertaining and personable figures. Those planning to attend the jump should arrive early as parking in the marina area is limited.
-- Pete Thomas
Photo of Travis Pastrana, with the landing ramp and Queen Mary in the background, by Pete Thomas