Dry conditions make for fast Day 2 in Oregon’s desert highlands
DUFUR, Ore. (April 25, 2015) – Dry road conditions made for a high speed second day at the Oregon Trail Rally as competition moved to the wide-open high desert roads near Dufur, Ore. That was bad news for frontrunners David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew who began losing ground Saturday with engine trouble in their Subaru WRX STI.
Saturday’s fast stages saw cars on the limit, with top teams reporting speeds over 120 mph on the dry gravel roads. Higgins and Drew, meanwhile, were down on power and said they were struggling to keep up. “We’re having to drive harder to carry more corner speed and maintain momentum,” said Higgins.
FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze won two stages early in the day and hoped to keep the pressure on but the Subaru Rally Team USA duo played it smart, managing their engine trouble and holding off the challenge to end Day 2 with a comfortable minute-long lead.
Overnight, Subaru Rally Team USA technicians were expected to perform an engine swap that they hoped would return the Subaru to full power for the final day’s stages.
About a third of the stage miles remain in the rally as the competition transitions from Saturday’s flat-out high desert into twisty and technical forest roads near Hood River, Ore., Sunday. Forecasters were predicting another dry and sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-60s.
Day 2 saw some surprising upsets. After a strong start to the weekend, David Sterckx and co-driver Renaud Jamoul were out of contention midway through Saturday’s stages with a mechanical failure in their Open class Subaru WRX STI.
Early SP challengers Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam were fighting to regain ground after a broken tie rod and powertrain issues dropped them from fourth Saturday morning to seventh by the end of the day.
Nick Roberts and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino, meanwhile, ended the day leading the SP class and sitting in third-place overall after a day of competition that saw them conquer some old demons on the Big Boyd stage. In 2013, Roberts rolled heavily on Big Boyd and last year, just a mile further down the same road, the team’s rally ended in a fire.
In fourth place after two days of competition were George Plsek and co-driver John Hall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Arkadiusz Gruszka and co-driver Lukasz Wronski rounded out the Top 5 in their new Mitsubishi Mirage.
Troy Miller and co-driver Ole Holter were leading the 2WD class and ninth overall at the end of Day 2, with Miller reporting “everything was perfect,” with the team’s Ford Fiesta R2. Rounding out the Top 10 and leading the B Spec class were James Robinson and Brian Penza in their 2015 Honda Fit.
With a total of 18 stages and more than 115 competition miles run over three days, the Oregon Trail Rally tests teams to the limit. Unpredictable weather coupled with the variable character of the stage roads often make this event a battle of attrition. The action wraps up on Sunday with finish celebrations in Hood River, Ore., at 5:15 p.m.
(Photo: Rally America)