After more than a decade spent competing against one another, freestyle motocross icons Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan are teammates. The two athletes, who've both made the switch to car racing in recent years, will represent the U.S. at the 2011 Race of Champions in Dusseldorf, Germany, Dec. 3-4.
Created in 1988, the ROC brings together the best international drivers in a variety of racing disciplines and pits them against one another in a series of head-to-head races in identical cars on parallel tracks. Each race takes place in a different style of automobile, forcing drivers to prove their mettle behind the wheel of more than just the car they're paid to drive. The idea: crown a Champion of Champions, the fastest driver in the world. The ROC Nations Cup held the day before the ROC decides the fastest nation in the world. This year, Deegan and Pastrana believe Team USA can be that nation.
"I think we can win, and that's why I'm going," Deegan says. "At the X Games, people didn't think I had a chance against Marcus Gronholm, the best rally driver in the world. But I straight-up smoked him. Travis and I have been such great competitors against each other and together; we'll be a force. I only race to win and Travis is the same way."
Pastrana was confirmed to race in this, his seventh ROC, in mid-October. Shortly after that, Deegan got the call. "I didn't know a lot about the race, but I knew Travis had done it a few times," says Deegan, who is having his best year so far on four wheels. "I researched it and thought it'd be an honor to race there." So far, 14 drivers have been confirmed for the event, including 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, 2010 and 2011 Formula 1 winner Sebastian Vettel, seven-time Formula 1 champ Michael Schumacher, three-time World Touring Car champ Andy Priaulx and three-time ROC Champion of Champions Mattias Ekstrom from the German touring-car series. "I respect the guys we're racing against and what they've done, but I've never been a guy who's intimidated by names," Deegan says. "They're all just another guy on the track I'm going to have to beat."
In the past, Pastrana would fall into that category, as well. But Deegan says as their relationship has evolved over the years, his respect for his one-time rival has grown tremendously. "I never really planned on being on the same team as Pastrana, but this is probably one of the biggest things to ever happen in action sports," he says.
Pastrana had similar thoughts on teaming up with Deegan. "With the kind of year Brian has had, I'm hoping his good fortune will continue into the Race of Champions. It'll be great to compete alongside him," Pastrana says. This will be Pastrana's first race back since shattering his right ankle in a crash during FMX Best Trick at this summer's X Games. Pastrana had ankle surgery three months ago and the pins were removed last month -- he is still wearing a walking boot.
"We're going to be ready," Deegans says. "We have plans to start practicing in a couple weeks. I'm not going to give away all of our secretes, but we're taking this seriously." A win at an event like this would go a long way in helping Deegan make a case for making the jump to the more competitive racing ranks. "I want to pick the brains of the other drivers, learn what makes them the best and bring that back to America. I'd like to open people's eyes and get an opportunity to race at the next level," Deegan says. "Travis called me right after I agreed to race and was like, 'I hear we're teammates,'" Deegan says. "He said, 'I never thought I'd see the day the Mulisha would be representing America.' I said, 'Well, when I started the company, I said world domination was one of my goals. I wasn't kidding.'"