Dufur, Oregon (April 23, 2018)
David Higgins and Craig Drew have won the 2018 Oregon Trail Rally, marking the pair's unprecedented seventh win together at the event and Higgins' ninth overall win in Oregon. The Subaru Rally Team USA drivers outlasted stiff competition from multiple challengers to win the event by just over six minutes.
“Happy to get the win, and great to be back in the car again,” said Higgins, “Today was a proper Sunday drive just trying to manage the gap, we stayed clear of any problems, and our Subaru STI was perfect. I’m really looking forward to the next one.”
Despite not competing together since Muscatell Ojibwe Forests Rally last year, Higgins and Drew drove like they never took a break. The pair opened up a one minute gap over the previous two days to start Sunday's stages near Dufur with comfortable lead ahead of turbo Fiesta S2000 Barry McKenna and Leon Jordan. Higgins' goal for the day was to maintain the lead; only driving as quick as required to hold the gap. McKenna would strike on one stage, only for Higgins to take it back on the next.
The two teams jockeyed for position until Stage 18, Starveout II. McKenna cut a corner, clipping a berm and rolling the car. After getting the car back on its wheels, the McKenna Motorsports pair cleared the stage, keeping their rally alive, but losing eleven minutes, and their podium, in the process. The team would repair the car in service and finish the event fourth overall, salvaging points in the championship fight.
Placing second overall and first in the Limited 4WD class at Oregon were defending 2017 RO4WD champions Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski. The podium marks a career-best finish for Seehorn, improving on his previous best of first in class and third overall.
Starting the day fourth overall with a four minute lead in their class, the Seehorn Rally Team elected to emulate David Higgins and Craig Drew – working to maintain the gap and score as many championship points as possible. Despite a puncture setting them back early in the day, the strategy paid off; Seehorn and Jankowski earned a class win and their spot on the overall podium.
Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino surprised with their last-minute Oregon Trail Rally entry last week. The team, competing in a 25 year old World Rally Championship spec Ford Escort RS Cosworth, wasn't in it to win the rally; they were just looking to have a fun weekend. Block and Gelsomino went home with a third overall finish at the event.
Starting the day holding their podium position, Block and Gelsomino quickly came under threat due to suspension damage. The team passed through 2 stages in the morning loop with a vibrating right rear. Block lost nearly three minutes and was passed by Jeff Seehorn. Despite the mechanical troubles, Block and Gelsomino overcame attrition and took back their podium spot late in the day after McKenna's roll.
Though out of contention for an OTR podium due to the time penalty associated with the Super Rally Rule, Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot didn't disappoint the crowd by driving conservatively. Instead, the pair pushed hard and showed their WRC experience, winning six of the day's eight stages and setting the long jump for the event - 115ft.
Travis Nease and Danny Norkus finished second in the Limited 4WD class behind 2017 championship rivals Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski. The pair utilized their signature style of fast, but not dangerous, driving to keep the car in one piece and outlast the competition to a fifth overall finish.
Third on the Limited 4WD podium were Krystian Ostrowski and Michael Szewczyk of the Polish Rally Mafia. The pair from Calgary, Alberta, was in Oregon for the second time and their first as national competitors. The long-time Canadian Rally Championship competitors put in a fast and consistent drive to take third in the class and sixth overall.
Winning the Open 2WD class and placing seventh overall were Jason Bailey and Leanne Junnila. The pair, normally rivals in the CRC, quickly fell into sync as teammates in Bailey's R2 Fiesta. The rally veterans quickly showed their pace and experience, opening an early lead on the competition and maintaining it to win the class. Dodging mechanical issues and keeping a hard charging Erick Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen at bay to win the Open 2WD by just over a minute.
Speaking of, Erick Potts and Claudia Barbera-Pullen took second in the Open 2WD class and ninth overall in their newly upgraded supercharged Subaru BRZ. The pair pushed hard in their first event together since NEFR in 2017, taking two stage wins and keeping their loses to a minimum. An impressive drive considering 2018 was Potts' first Oregon Trail Rally.
Lucy Block and Krista Skucas took third in Open 2WD and twelfth overall in their first rally together since NEFR 2015. The pair drove a steady rally and finished without troubles, though they did lose the front bumper from their R2 Fiesta on the final pass through Deere Run. The bumper was signed by sweep crews and returned after podium celebrations.
Finishing first in the Limited 2WD class and eleventh overall were Maxxis Honda HPD drivers Jordan Guitar and Brian Penza in their Honda Civic. The team knows how to drive a fast, trouble free, rally and put on a clinic; taking an early class lead before passing the higher-spec Open 2WD of podium finisher Lucy Block. If entered as Open 2WD, this team would have been on that podium too.
Second in the Limited 2WD class and eighteenth overall were Craig Lumsden and Carrie Lumsden in a MK VI Volkswagen Golf. Their first Oregon Trail Rally, the Lumsdens drove confidently to achieve their first ARA class podium.
Full standings for the Oregon Trail Rally are available on RallyData.com.
Next up for the American Rally Association is Olympus Rally, May 19 - 20 in Shelton, WA. Competitors will tackle some of America's most historic stage roads in the two day competition on the Olympic Peninsula.
Photo Credit: Alex Wong