The Oregon Trail Rally: Part 1

The Oregon Trail Rally is the first of two west coast stops for the Rally America championship. I’d been wanting to attend this rally for years, but somehow never got the chance. Well, since Life Blasters is increasing its motorsports coverage this year, I figured I’d better finally go.

I met up with Alex from Emotive Image and BorrowLenses, and we left the Bay Area around noon. Not exactly an early start, but we were excited, and the weather was pleasant as we made our way through the northernmost reaches of Norcal.
As soon as we got into Oregon we got a taste of that good old PNW weather, complete with a few snow flurries. Sigh
Joe and Justin were in Medford at the time, so Alex and I stopped to hang out with them at Beerworks. That is most definitely not a good idea if you have to keep to any kind of schedule.
See what I mean?
Four hours later, we were back on the road. Leaving Medford at 10pm, there was no way we’d get to Portland in time to hang out with Ryan Davis of Yaer.
After a quick nap at a rest area outside of Portland, we made the drive up the Columbia River gorge during sunrise. The view was pretty amazing.
We finally made it to the Dalles and had a lot of time to hang out and watch everyone unload. David Higgins and Craig Drew have been dominating Rally America lately and were fully expected to win this round.
Verena Mei first came onto my radar when she got into drifting a while back and then time attack after that. I wonder what she’ll do after rally.
One of the cool things about rally is that the cars drive on public roads to and from the stages. They don’t need to have a police escort or anything.
After a few stages, the cars come back for service, which could be anything from scraping dirt out of the wheel wells to replacing engine and suspension parts.
The Summit crew had to replace an axle on one of their S13’s.
At the end of each team’s allotted service time, they pregrid before heading out to the next group of stages.
While we were waiting to head out on stage, we checked out some of the vendor booths. Sparco makes a pretty rad folding tool bag. It looks like a messenger bag when it’s all folded up. I told the guy I’d buy one as soon as I have flat camera gear.
Finally it was time to head out. Alex set up a remote camera on Starveout. He hoped it wouldn’t get too dirty.
With this kind of stuff going on, I think he’d be lucky to get anything at all out of that camera.
Crazy Leo Urlichich is said to drive like Finnish WRC driver Marcus Grönholm. I wonder how crazy Carl Williamson is to ride with him all the time. Actually, I’m pretty sure everyone in rally is crazy.
With all the mud, staying clean is just not an option. Many cars crossed the stage finish lines with their numbers completely covered by dirt.
Will Orders and Toni Feaver were one of two Summit Rally teams driving S13’s. The teams are from Australia and the cars are right hand drive with Blacktop SR’s. Delicious.
Oftentimes we got to drive on the stages on the way to where we were going to shoot. Alex was excited that he got to check “drive on a rally stage” off his bucket list.
Apparently we were following Doc Brown, because where we were going we didn’t need roads.
Out on Boyd, Mount Hood dominates the view to the west.
As Mount Adams looms in the north.
Pretty soon Higgins and Drew came flying by. They had won seven of the previous nine stages. This would be their 10th.
Crazy Leo was right behind him.
Hardy Schmidtkey was driving the only Evo VIII in Open class, and one of only two in the rally. Those cars used to be so popular!
Subarus were by the far the car of choice.
As it turns out, there were more Saab 96’s than Evo VIII’s. Garth Ankeny and Russ Kraushaar were the fastest Saab team.
Verena Mei wasn’t doing too bad. She and co-driver Leanne Junnila took their Fiesta to a 4th place finish in 2WD.
Alex found a cool view on the far side of the ridge.
Spectacular! I don’t think I’ve ever watched racing in as beautiful of an environment.
The dust would often linger near the course long after a car went by.
After the last stage of the day, all the cars gathered in a field near the creek in Dufur for the night’s Parc Expose.
Andrew Comrie-Picard’s Scion xD lost a few chunks from its front bumper but was otherwise in good shape.
Is this the rally version of “Never Lift?”
Saab 96’s have a V4 mounted entirely in front of the front axle. How can it possibly handle well? That’s the kind of question that’d have to wait til later. It was dinner time and the next day was going to be brutal.
Stick around and see what happens tomorrow!
Photos by Bohan and Alex Wong

4 thoughts on “The Oregon Trail Rally: Part 1

  1. There were actually 3 Saab 96’s and 3 Evo 8’s so we were even. Speaking of which, did you capture any of our #36 evo on friday or saturday?

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