As I write this, it's been a full 6 days since I arrived home from the 2013 Oregon Trail Rally and I am still feeling the effects. The third race in the Rally America Championship series, this was one brutal rally. Brutal on the cars, the competitors, the volunteers and yes, even the measly media folks.
It was hotter, rougher, dustier and body-bending more than ever before. I've competed in this rally on and off as a driver for over 10 years now. I can honestly say I've never seen so much carnage, so much damage, so many nasty rollovers. To be the victor in this rally is really saying something as barely 1/2 of the 70+ cars entered in this event managed to see the finish.
Once again, Subaru Rally Team USA pulls off an amazing victory with driver David Higgins and navigator Craig Drew. This win did not come without struggle, the service crew was put to the test more than once as the car arrived into service damaged and mangled. Rocks, um wait... scratch that... BOULDERS seemed to appear on stage causing chaos on every corner. Luckily the damage sustained did not slow the team much at all as they held the rally lead from beginning into the flying finish. With this victory Higgins now has a commanding lead in the Rally America National Championship standings.
Overall championship contenders Ken Block (Ford) and Antoine L'Estage (Mitsubishi) did not fare quite as well. Block spent the entire rally seemingly fighting rally demons. From a lost wheel (yes he lost it completely in a shower of sparks down the stage!), to a broken driveshaft, to 3 separate punctures, the stages took their toll on the car and the stage times. Block did manage to claw back and hang on to finish 2nd overall for the weekend.
L'Estage, in the debut of his WRC Mitsubishi Lancer failed to finish the rally after a very uncharacteristic and massive off. L'Estage was coming to grips with the new rally beast, which was quite different from his car of old. His focus surely would have been strained trying to learn a new car and to keep pace. Whatever the cause, he stated he mis-heard a note and with no room to correct, the car left the road careening down a freshly clear-cut hill and into one of the only remaining trees in the forest. The car was damaged head to toe, but luckily both team mates had only very minor injuries. L'Estage has sadly stated that he's done with the Rally America series for 2013 - let's hope he changes his mind!
Crazily, the off was captured on film from across the stage:
Other results of the rally: Super Production battle was won by David Sterckx (Subaru STi), who now moves into 2nd place in the overall SP standings behind 4th place finisher Evan Cline (Subaru STi) who incredibly finished the rally on only 3 wheels!
2wd was dominated by debut driver Brendan Reeves (Ford Fiesta) out of Australia. Sure hope to see more of him at future events, he was flying! 2nd to Reeves was Dillon Van-Way (Ford Fiesta) followed by Andrew Comrie-Picard (Scion xD).
What an insane sport and a totally mental weekend. Cannot wait for the next one! I encourage you to FIND a rally event near you and experience this craziness for yourself. You'll be hooked... I promise
View Official NASIOC event photos:
View full championship standings:
Next event: STPR Wellsboro, PA: