As I write this, I am still recovering from an exhilarating yet exhausting weekend. This time of the year, Oregon is in the spotlight of one of the largest rally events in the nation. The Oregon Trail Rally, hosted by the Rally America series, took place from the 3rd through the 5th of this month. In these next few posts, I hope you get to immerse yourself in the exciting, loud, dirt-in-your-mouth atmosphere that I got to experience. I’ll get down to writing about neat things like sunburn, dehydration, sleep deprivation and lame stuff like racecars, jumps, and Ken Block.
First of all, I have never covered a rally event before in my life. Sure I’ve covered a couple local drift events before, not anything like this. Thankfully local photography guru, Bob Holcomb, was my liaison for the weekend. Bob has been doing photography for decades, and his motor sports knowledge proved invaluable. Consider this my utmost gratitude to Bob and the many organizers of Rally America for all they do!
Portland International Raceway isn’t a small track, but the commotion in the paddock made everything feel tight-knit. After all, there were 74 registered teams. Competitive as they all may have been, there were no hostilities between teams in my perspective; 5-time OTR winner David Higgins could be seen flapping gums with many of the other drivers, co-drivers and pit crews.
Not long after the Parc Exposé, the drivers and co-drivers were summoned to a meeting, including Ken Block who hasn’t set wheels down on the track in Oregon since 2010.
Instead of sending the faster drivers out to skid around first, the slower competitors got the honors. Don’t think that because they’re not as fast or they’re not as exciting to watch. The #283 Saab 99 of Nate Tennis and Adam Newell were making the most of it. Keep in mind; the stages at PIR were a mix of tarmac, dirt and gravel, so setup could be a doozy.
One of my favorite classic cars on track has to be the Saab 96, piloted by Garth Ankeny and Russ Kraushaar.
I remember the first time I saw the Hintz’s BMW E36 back in 2011. Even though I attended as a spectator, I had a great view of it at Fir Mountain North as Dave and Richard navigated a sharp left corner with a beautiful slide. It was one of those beautiful moments where time seemed to slow down.
Usually when I encounter a Scion xD on the interstate, I think nothing of it. This isn’t the case with Scion Racing’s track twister, however. It must be all that DTA Posse happening on the rear window. Or the fact it’s a racecar driven by Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey, whichever.
The two-time Rally Indonesia winner Rifat Sungkar partnered up with Marshall Clarke to compete in Fastron World Rally Team’s Lancer Evo X this year. Unfortunately they had a bit of a shunt when according to Rifat, on the last corner of the 2ndstage the pace note read as “minus 5 flat”, Which is a way co-drivers let drivers know about upcoming corners. Rifat didn’t hear the note clearly enough, and as a result the car slid into a guardrail damaging the brakes, driveshaft, wheels, you name it. Thankfully, the team got straight to work and had it fixed up in time for the last two stages that night.
Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard are familiar faces in North American rally, which makes sense when Antoine has 37 national victories and a bronze medal from the 2010 Summer X-Games under his belt, many with Nathalie as his co-driver. Things have changed up a bit as they debuted a 2005 WRC Lancer, thanks to British MML Sports; The Rockstar Energy team used to run a Lancer Evo X. Even though they were just getting things dialed in, that didn’t stop them from finishing the night in 2nd. But as you’ll find out in Saturday’s summary, bad stuff happened.
Nothing to see here, it’s only Ken Block hooniganing around in his Ford Fiesta with Alex Gelsomino. Wouldn’t you rather read about nifty things like quadratic equations and how a turbo encabulator works? By the way, Ken and Alex placed 4th overall at the end of the day on Friday. Kenny’s a marketing master and a pretty good driver on top of that.
Reigning champions David Higgins and Craig Drew absolutely mastered the track. How smooth Dave runs his open-class Subaru around the corners is something you’ll must see for yourself, or Youtube. I could easily compare his driving style to Formula 1 legend Jackie Stewart. As if it wasn’t enough that he finished 1st on Friday, the Subaru Rally Team were 38 seconds ahead of 2nd place in overall time lapsed between stages 1 through 4!
As night was closing in, the cars still blitzed at an unwavering pace. The Volvo 242 of Albert Kun and Patrick Darrow is a one-two punch of speed and presence. Here you can see them nearly ride the wall around this blind corner. The porta potty in the background adds a nice touch to the photo.
Obligatory black and white closing shot, with Wim van der Poel and Bryan Lord at the wheel.
I really hope you enjoyed looking at the photos and reading about what is one of my favorite forms of motor sport, besides drifting of course. Next up, Hood River!