Rally America Resumes at Oregon Trail Rally

Image: Aaron Kathman

Image: Aaron Kathman

After two wintery Rally America National Championship rounds 70 national and regional rally teams – the largest entry list this year – are ready for warmer temperatures and the fast sweeping stage roads of the Oregon Trail Rally, the third round of the Championship on May 3-5th in Portland, OR.

The Championship has already seen early overall standings lead changes and the emergence of new Super Production and Two-Wheel Drive category leaders at the first two events. Now the Oregon Trail Rally will play a pivotal role as teams attempt to solidify their positions or close the gap to the current points leaders.

Defending Rally America Champions, Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew, are back in familiar territory leading the National standings following their second round Rally in the 100 Acre Wood win last February. The Oregon Trail Rally comes at a good time for Higgins and Drew who have won Oregon by at least three minutes the last few years giving them a psychological edge over their opponents.

Right behind Higgins is Canadians Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard from the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team. L’Estage and Richard began the season with a strong Sno*Drift Rally win, but lost the lead by not finishing the second round. The team is currently in the best position to retake the points lead if Higgins does not perform well at the Oregon Trail Rally. The Rockstar duo has never won the Oregon event and would love a win here to add even more pressure on the Subaru team.

Notably an all-out-attack is expected from Gymkhana viral video star and Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block as he seeks to reestablish his Rally America title hopes. Block is a constant pressure to the other top contenders with his longtime co-driver, Alex Gelsomino, but the team experienced mechanical failures at the first events of the season that knocked them backwards in the standings. A good Oregon Trail Rally result will ensure that Block reinserts his name at the top.

In an unexpected move, Super Production (SP) Class leader Evan Cline from Brighton, MI is continuing his dream season at the Oregon Trail Rally. Cline was last year’s SP Class runners up and was not expected to return to Rally America competition. However, Cline made an appearance at January’s Sno*Drift Rally and took first in Super Production. He followed up his first SP podium with a second place SP finish at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood and now finds himself leading the SP standings by 14 points over fellow Michigan native, Mason Moyle.

However, the 2013 Oregon Trail Rally SP Class field has been made deeper with a number of Pacific Northwest teams entering the fray who have had success in the SP national ranks. Bend, OR’s Byron Garth, has placed well in his local events and nearly made the podium at the 2012 Olympus Rally, and David Henderson from Hood River, OR has taken2nd place in class at last year’s Oregon event.

The Oregon Trail Rally comes at the right time for Scion Racing Rally xD’s Andrew Comrie-Picard who leads the Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) national category. Comrie-Picard took Scion to their first podium finish at Oregon in 2011 and another Oregon win will add a points cushion over Ford Fiesta R2 driver and 2012 Rally America Rookie of the year, Edward McNelly.

McNelly is a Tim O’Neil Rally School trained driver who has quietly finished on the podium each time this year. Any slip-up from Comrie-Picard and McNelly can easily move into the 2WD top spot.

In the B-Spec Championship Honda Performance Development’s James Robinson currently leads in points over rookie Edward Stiefvater. A victory at Oregon will extend Robinson’s win streak to three consecutive events and can position the longtime rally driver comfortably in the B-Spec standings near the season’s midpoint.

The Oregon Trail Rally is Rally America’s only three-day event and will begin with a lunch hour driver meet & greet at the Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland, OR on Thursday, May 2 at 11:00am PT.

The first competition day takes place on the tarmac and gravel roads of Portland International Raceway. It is the most spectator friendly evening of racing with multiple viewing locations amidst a festival atmosphere. Gate’s open at 5:00pm, tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, and kids under 6 with an adult are free.

For Saturday and Sunday the Oregon Trail Rally moves to Hood River where fans can continue to watch the rally event in its natural gravel stage road environment. Spectator viewing areas, directions and schedule will be available via an online spectator guide soon. Be sure to check www.oregontrailrally.com for more information.

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