Portland, Oregon (April 20, 2018)
Today marks the start of the Oregon Trail Rally and with it, the 2018 American Rally Association National Championship Series officially kicks off. Over the next three days, 57 talented teams will take on the fast and dusty stage roads of Portland International Raceway, Goldendale WA, and Dufur OR.
OTR features a wide variety of stage roads and racing surfaces. Let’s break them down.
The action starts on the multi-surface stages at Portland International Raceway, where the fan-favorite venue brings stage rally to the city in a spectator-friendly environment. Run at twilight and into the night, Friday at PIR mixes track access roads, the venue's grassy infield, and the track surface itself to create four crowd-pleasing Super Special stages.
A specially-prepared yump shows off suspension travel and the track's hairpin showcases handbrake skill. Not to be taken lightly, the stages at PIR have forced the retirement of many competitors in the past. As the saying goes, you don't win a rally on a Super Special, but you can very easily lose one.
In a reshuffling of the rally weekend, Goldendale stages will now be run on the second day of the event, with Dufur stages closing out the event on Sunday.
Showcasing one of the most scenic views on the rally calendar, Day 2 of the Oregon Trail Rally starts off with the Dalles Mountain Uphill stage. Starting at the floor of the gorge, Dalles Mountain Uphill sees competitors ascend along the face of a small mountain and climb to an altitude of nearly 2500ft over the road's 10.7 mile length. Last year on this stage, both Travis Pastrana and David Higgins nearly had rally-ending off road excursions, with both cars sliding wide and putting a wheel off the edge of the ravine.
After a brisk morning climb, competitors move onto a loop of the tricky Badger Gulch and Oak Flat stages. These stage roads are rough in several sections and have forced several competitor retirements in the past. Last year, both James Rimmer and Jeff Seehorn had mechanical trouble exacerbated by Oak Flat, though only the former retired. The carcasses of abandoned 60 year old family cars line side of Badger Gulch, showing this road's ability break vehicles that get a little too cocky.
Saturday also features the historic Maryhill Loops Road. Laid down in 1911 as an asphalt test road by the famous Sam Hill, Maryhill Loops is almost perfectly built for racing. The narrow tarmac stage treats drivers to three miles of tight and flowing corners perfectly made for slides.
A downhill running of the Dalles Mountain stage closes out the day.
For Sunday, the rally crosses back across the Columbia River into the wide plains and rolling hills near Dufur, Oregon. The Oregon Trail Rally gets fast on these flowing roads and sixth will be a commonly selected gear. To break up the raw speed, Dufur stages mix in several obstacles for teams to overcome.
Starting with the famous Boyd Loop, Day 3 of OTR hits the ground running. Now run a third time, up from it's usual two tests, Boyd Loop challenges drivers with it's famous jump halfway through the stage. Owing to its deceptive approach and tricky landing, the Boyd Jump requires commitment. To that end, it's no surprise that Travis Pastrana holds the current distance record of 125ft.
From there, competitors move onto the tricky Deere Run stage. This fast stage road tests competitor's mettle with several sharp exposures, tricky corners, and chicanes. It also features OTR's signature water-splash, a dive through a small river at race pace. Fording the river requires careful attention by teams as hitting the splash at a wrong speed can cause engine damage, potentially leading to a forced retirement from the event.
Finally, the loop ends with the Starveout stage and it's challenging spectator corner. Every part of this corner is tricky; starting with the steep downhill run and a series of small turns that lead into the braking zone. Rewarding bravery, these turns require confidence and can be taken at full throttle. Requiring extremes in car control, the corner itself takes competitors into a full slide from speed through a narrow cattle gate. The wood and metal gate punishes those that slide wide and hit it.
The Oregon Trail Rally concludes on Sunday evening with a podium celebration and champagne spray at The Dalles Discovery Center.
Be sure to follow the Oregon Trail Rally and all of the talented competitors here this weekend on the rally's Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. ARA will be live-streaming on Facebook at several points throughout the weekend. Be sure to check in and see David Higgins, Ken Block, Chris Atkinson, Jeff Seehorn, and all the other talented teams here this weekend.
Photo Credit: Chris Daley (Top), Alex Wong (1,2,3)
About American Rally Association (ARA) A member-driven organization dedicated to the sport of Stage Rally, the American Rally Association provides a transparent, inclusive, and growing sanctioning body to competitors throughout America. A 501 (c)(3) non-profit and wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Auto Club (USAC), ARA is led by seasoned Stage Rally professionals who work hand in hand with an experienced Board of Directors to deliver a framework for safety, competition, promotion, and education for all aspects of the sport. The common goal of our members, volunteers, and organization is a thriving Stage Rally program in America.