BOISE, Idaho — Rhianon Gelsomino lives an extreme life as she rides alongside the legend Travis Pastrana as they compete in the Rally Car Association.
The race series has one race left, but this duo who is sponsored by Subaru has already earned enough points to be crowned champions of 2021.
"As a girl growing up in a male-dominated sport you can only dream about it and think about it, and maybe one day it will happen for me," said Gelsomino. "I could have given up on my dream and passion, but luckily I didn’t."
Rhianon Gelsomino grew up in Australia and she came from a motor-sports family who decided she should try being a co-driver in a rally car.
"I was a P.E. teacher, I was pretty happy with my life teaching kids in high school and then one day my dad and my brother decided I would make a perfect co-driver," said Gelsomino. "I’m small, I’m good at math and I’m competitive and so all of a sudden I was thrown into the co-driver seat for my brothers."
A co-driver has an important job coming up with pace notes and then calling out the next turn, how sharp the turn is, and doing this while flying down a crazy track that could be any number of different driving conditions from snow, to mountain roads or pavement.
"Travis’s note system is a one to six, so if I call a six he has to go flat out no lift, if I call a one we are going to do a hairpin," said Gelsomino who has no real control over the car. "Not having control is definitely a difficult one sometimes you are using your foot like it’s a brake pedal."
But if you could choose any driver to ride with Travis Pastrana has to be near the top of the list, Pastrana is one of the accomplished extreme sports athletes, he has been dubbed the king of Motorcross and this championship is number six in the Rally Car Association.
"Travis is fantastic to work with, people say he’s crazy and all those sorts of things, but in all honesty, he has precision in the car he's been awesome to work with," said Gelsomino. "He really thinks about his notes, he thinks about where we are going to place the car over a jump, or a crest, or a corner."
Gelsomino told us they have had crashes, but also added that everybody does on these insane tracks and in the end, Gelsomino earned a championship trophy.
"I won my first national championship sitting beside Travis Pastrana the legend," said Gelsomino. "It is incredible for my family, I haven’t been able to see them because of the COVID restrictions in Australia, but I can’t wait to get back and celebrate with them because I know how proud they are of everything I’ve achieved."
Rhianon has been able to celebrate her accomplishments with her husband Alex who also happens to be a co-driver, they were married in 2013 and the next year they moved to Horseshoe Bend, Idaho.
"People ask why would you pick Idaho out of anywhere in the world and I say why wouldn’t you," said Gelsominoo. "I think it is just incredible."
The Oregon Trail Rally is the last race of the year and it gets underway this weekend on a number of different tracks north of Portland, if Alex and his driver have a good finish they have the opportunity to finish the series in second place.
I covered a story on rally car racing here in Idaho a few years ago, I hopped in as a co-driver not really knowing what it would be like and I have to say it was one of the scariest experiences I've ever had.