Portland, Oregon (April 17, 2018)
After several years competing in regional championships and one-off events, Sam Albert and Co-Driver Michelle Miller are stepping up to the national stage and taking on all seven events of the 2018 American Rally Association National Championship Series. The professional rally instructors will compete for the championship as part of the high-contested Limited 4WD class in a DirtFish branded Subaru STi.
An accomplished driver, Albert has won multiple regional events throughout the Pacific Northwest and earned a Northwest Region regional championship in 2015. Last year, Albert and Miller competed at two ARA events, Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally and the Tri-State Regional Rally. At both events, the pair showed a strong pace before being let down by mechanical issues. This year, Albert is excited to capitalize on the speed and reliability of a new car along with the challenge of national competition.
“I’m super stoked! I’ve wanted to campaign a full national season since I first got started in rally eight years ago. It’s kind of like a dream come true,” said Albert. “It’s taken a ton of hard work to get to this point from everyone involved and we’re putting every effort forward to not just participate, but to dominate.”
A full-time national series commitment is a sizable effort; requiring manpower, development time, and commitment from everyone involved with the team. For his inaugural championship effort, Albert is expanding his relationship with DirtFish, where he instructs, while also bringing new organizations into the fold. A technical partnership with Canada-based Rocket Rally will help ensure the car's pace while Albert spends time honing his driving skills on the DirtFish grounds.
“The team will have a lot of familiar faces but in a more official and permanent position. Michelle Miller will continue to pull co-driver duties for the season and we’ll have Tony Torchia and Chad Sherman also from DirtFish servicing the car. Beyond that, we’ll also have media coverage and general help from the entire team at DirtFish. We’re partnered up with Rocket Rally, who are running our engine and transmission program, Hoosier Tire who will be providing us with tires for the season, Method Race Wheels, and Cusco USA.”
“Every once in awhile we get to stretch our legs at DirtFish, but lately it’s all been about finishing the new build. We're always looking for extra time to really get our setup dialed in.”
Albert and Miller will be driving a Subaru STi built for last year's Oregon Trail Rally. In 2017, the car competed in the Restricted Open 4WD class with James Rimmer and Michelle Miller in the cockpit. Rimmer proved competitive at his one-off event before a mechanical fault ended his rally early. With the shift to the new Limited 4WD class, the competition will be tighter than it was a year ago. Albert is thrilled to be in the fray.
“I'm looking forward to the battles. Absolutely. I think it’s where the best competition will be for the entire season with multiple teams capable of winning.”
Though he now lives in the Pacific Northwest, Albert started his stage rally career on the other side of the country. Over his decade of competing, Albert has driven at every ARA event, either as a national or regional entry, with the exception of the Oregon Trail Rally. To prepare for Oregon, Albert is studying Michelle Miller's notes and in-car video footage from previous years. Coming into this weekend's event, Albert is looking forward to a few of OTR's offerings.
“Oddly enough, beside Tour de Forest, this is the only event on the calendar I haven’t done. I moved to the PNW four years ago and this is the first time I’m actually around. To help get prepared I’ve been reviewing on board video from last year to get familiar with the stages which has helped a ton.”
“Definitely looking forward to Dalles Mountain and hitting the jump on Boyd. The views on both look spectacular. Hopefully I don’t get distracted and can keep my focus!”
Photo Credit: DirtFish (Top), Alex Wong (1)