Rally America Returns to the Shadow of Mt. Hood for the 2015 Oregon Trail Rally
The Rally America National Championship heads west after a two month break for the Oregon Trail Rally on April 24-26th near Portland, Oregon. A three day event, the Oregon Trail Rally will challenge teams with its mix of high speeds, technical turns, and road surfaces.
The racing starts on Friday with four super special stages at Portland International Raceway (PIR). The super special stages combine the asphalt of the racing circuit with the gravel roads surrounding the track. This year’s event offers new tarmac and gravel road configurations that include an exciting jump along with a slide-inducing roundabout in front of the grandstands. PIR is a crowd favorite, allowing a close and unique view of full bore rally action.
Prior to the start of the race the drivers, co-drivers, and teams will be easily accessible for photos and autographs.
On Saturday the rally moves to the open spaces and rolling hills of Dufur, Oregon. The smooth dirt stage roads offer some of the highest speeds on the Rally America calendar. Day two is also home to the water splash, a high speed dive that has been known to tear the bumpers off of cars.
Sunday sees racing in the Hood River Valley, a tight and technical series of stages in the foothills of Mt. Hood. A far cry from the smooth and open racing of day two, day three sees the teams fighting through the woods on a series of tight dirt and gravel logging roads. The roads are tough, featuring steep ascents, quick drops, and tight corners. Also at issue is the road surface, as gravel chunks can be pulled loose from the surface with repeated passes resulting in the increased possibility of tire punctures.
With no snow in the forecast, the Oregon Trail Rally will be the first time this season that competitors can truly push their limits. David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA will be looking to extend their lead in the Rally America National Championship. Higgins is an Oregon Trail Rally veteran, boasting six wins in the shadow of Mt. Hood. Like many competitors last year, Higgins and Drew had issues navigating through the cone chicanes on day two. The cone gates have been redesigned for this year’s event to ameliorate the problems faced previously; they are larger and much more visible to drivers.
FY Racing will bring their squad of three Subaru STIs to the Pacific Northwest. Team Leader Adam Yeoman and his co-driver Jordan Schulze were forced to retire last time out, having suffered from an engine fire. They are back with a refreshed car for the Oregon Trail Rally.
FY teammates Brenton Kelly and Niall Burns had an impressive drive at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood this past February, just missing out on the podium. They will be looking to capitalize on momentum moving into the coming weekend.
The third FY Racing car belongs to David Sterckx and Renaud Jamoul. Sterckx is a three-time Oregon Trail Rally class winner, having won the Super Production class (SP) in 2013 and 2014. He should be one to look out for as he has moved into a more powerful Open class (O) rally car for this year.
Also competing in this year’s Oregon Trail Rally are the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood podium finishers Peter Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak. They will be looking for repeat success this coming weekend.
Super Production class leader Garry Gill will be out to defend his position against the rest of the class. Nick Roberts and Rhianon Gelsomino along with Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam will be Gill’s main competition. Last year O’Sullivan and Putnam finished on the podium for an impressive third, overcoming the previous year’s DNF. Roberts has a dramatic history with the Oregon Trail Rally. In 2014 he and Gelsomino were taken out of the event by a fuel tank rupture and the resulting fire. The previous year Roberts suffered a high speed rollover that totaled his car. Roberts and Gelsomino will be looking to not only finish this year, but finish strong.
The Two-Wheel Drive class (2WD) promises to have the closest competition at this year’s Oregon Trail Rally. Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn in their Ford Fiesta R1 proved to be an even match for Troy Miller and Steven Harrell in their Ford Fiesta R2. The two traded positions throughout the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, finishing day one a mere 1.4 seconds apart. The tight racing continued into day two until the weather turned. With bad snow on the ground Steely and Osborn pulled out a 29 second lead before the rally’s end. Expect that heated battle to continue into the Oregon Trail Rally.
B-Spec sees the return of the Honda Racing HPD Fit of James Robinson and Brian Penza. In Missouri they had an impressive run through the ice and snow covered stages of the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood, finishing eighth overall. Joining them in the Honda tent is the Group 2 Honda CRZ of James Guitar and Daniel McCarron.
Fans will have opportunities to visit with the teams and see the cars up close at PIR, Parcs Expose, service locations, spectator areas, and the victory celebration.
Download the free spectator guide to view the event schedule, maps, and viewing points at http://bit.ly/1yMqDgB.
Tickets are required for day one at Portland International Raceway. Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children 6-12. Tickets can be purchased at PIR or in advance to save $2 through the Oregon Trail Rally website at http://bit.ly/1F8R9BQ.
Day two and day three of the Oregon Trail Rally have free access viewing areas. Note that viewing locations on Sunday are limited to the Hood River Parc Expose and service area. Find the location of these areas in the spectator guide.
Photos: Aaron Kathman
About Rally America
Based in Williston, VT, Rally America, Inc. sanctions the Rally America National Championship, the premier performance rally championship in the United States, and a number of regional rally championships from coast-to-coast. The eight-event Rally America National Championship stops at venues across the country, from Portland, Oregon to Newry, Maine. Rally America competitors can reach speeds of well over 100 mph in modified street cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt, or snow over a course covering hundreds of miles.
Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Inc., Ford Performance, Honda Performance Development, and VP Racing Fuels.