Travis Pastrana’s goal: ‘Try not to die’ in bid to replicate 3 of Evel Knievel’s most famous jumps

Photo courtesy of Travis Pastrana/Nitro Circus
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Sunday in Las Vegas, Travis Pastrana will attempt to replicate and safely exceed the lengths of three of the most famous jump attempts by legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel – including flying over the fountain at Caesar’s Palace – a stunt that almost killed Knievel in 1967.

Pastrana, 34, will try to channel Knievel during a three-hour live broadcast on The History Channel (8 to 11 p.m. ET) titled “Evel Live.” He will do one different jump per hour, and each jump will be slightly longer than those that Knievel originally attempted.

“We have this awesome opportunity to recreate three of the most iconic jumps by the most iconic stuntman who ever lived,” Pastrana told People.com. “I really want to bring back the showmanship and the fun of these events.”

In addition to the fame associated with the event, the 34-year-old Pastrana has one other goal, as he told TheWrap.com: “Try not to die.”

Even on Pastrana’s own web site, NitroCircus.com, is asking, “Will Travis Survive the Stunt That Almost Killed Evel?”

Pastrana will start off the evening attempting to fly over 52 crushed and stacked cars (155 feet in length), then will fly over 16 buses (238 feet), and the grand finale of jumping 155 feet over the fountain.

Knievel made attempts over 50 crushed and stacked cars, 14 buses and a slightly shorter distance over the Caesar’s Palace fountain.

One thing of note to mention: Due to construction and capital improvements/modifications over the years since Knievel’s fountain jump, Pastrana will have a very difficult challenge: approximately half the stopping area than Knievel did when he made his attempt over the fountain.

To further honor Knievel, who made most of his jumps in a trademark red, white and blue firesuit with stars on it and a cape around his neck, Pastrana will wear a similar outfit.

“Evel always wore a cape and white leathers, and he captured that America theme that everyone knows,” Pastrana told People.com. “So we even went as far as going to the same tailor who did Evel’s boots, and they’re probably the most expensive item I’ve ever had! Definitely the most expensive shoes I’ve ever had.”

Pastrana will also ride a similar type of bike – an Indian Scout FTR750 V Twin – that Knievel used on most of his famous leaps.

The Indian Scout is about twice as heavy as the lightweight dirt bikes Pastrana is used to riding. But he wanted to keep all the jumps as close as possible to Knievel’s stunts, which is why he’ll be riding the Scout.

“My God, how did he get this tank in the air?” Pastrana told People.com about Knievel’s bike. “In true Evel fashion, every time I jump it it’s scary. The motorcycle is awesome. It’s got great power and awesome delivery. It’s super, super fast but it’s not meant to fly.

“It’s hard to manipulate in the air and if you take off wrong it’s kind of how you’re going to land. I’ve got three jumps. If I crash the first one and I’m physically able to get up I have to get back up. Not just for me, but for what we’re doing.”

The fountain could be the most difficult jump for Pastrana. It certainly was for Knievel, who suffered a crushed pelvis and femur, fractures to both hips, wrists and ankles and a concussion.

Pastrana obviously hopes a similar fate does not befall him. But at the same time, he’s prepared for the risks he’s undertaking.

If conditions such as wind change while in mid-jump, he’ll have to make split-second adjustments on the fly – no pun intended – and hope he lands safely.

“People like to see a good crash, but they like to see that person get back up… and land it,” Pastrana told TheWrap.com. “People want to know that it’s dangerous. They want to know that the boundaries are being pushed and that it is something incredible.”

One of Travis Pastrana’s signature moves that likely won’t be seen Sunday night. Photo Getty Images.

Knievel, who made over 75 jumps in his daredevil career and still holds the Guinness Book of World Records for most broken bones in a career (433), passed away in 2007 from heart failure at the age of 69 years old.

Sportscaster (of “American Ninja Warrior” fame) and licensed physician Matt Iseman will call play-by-play of all three of Pastrana’s jumps.

“The reality is this entire show hinges on him nailing it,” Iseman said of Pastrana to the New York Post. “If this guy has a pulse, if he can rev a gas handle, he’ll go and that’s what makes me love him and fear for him at the same time.

“He’s as close to Evel Knievel as we’ve got.”

Here are videos of three of Knievel’s infamous jumps that Pastrana will attempt to replicate – but hopefully not have the same outcomes on two of them:

Caesar’s Palace fountain jump — Dec. 31, 1967

Bus jump at Wembley Stadium – May 25, 1975

Knievel jumping 50 crushed cars at Los Angeles Coliseum on Feb. 18, 1973

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NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”