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Rally America road races coming to Klickitat County

 

Contributed by Chris Daley

ON THE RISE: Road rally racing, long hugely popular in Oregon, comes across the river to Klickitat County this month. See the schedule on page 2.

After a one-month break the Rally America National Championship heads west for the Oregon Trail Rally on April 22-24th near Portland, Oregon. This three-day racing event will challenge teams with its mix of high speeds, technical turns, and varying road surfaces.

For the first time ever, Oregon Trail Rally competitors will head north and cross the Columbia River Gorge to compete in Klickitat County. "For years we have considered expanding the event into southwest Washington. The area offers sweeping and dramatic views of the Cascade Range Mountains, a great backdrop for our rally", commented Oregon Trail Rally Chairman, Doug Heredos. "With the great support from Klickitat County and the community of Goldendale, we are excited about our future in this area." The race in Klickitat County will have a number of viewing locations around Goldendale and surrounding spots.

The racing starts on Friday, April 22, with four super special stages at Portland International Raceway (PIR). The super special stages combine the asphalt of the racing circuit with the gravel roads surrounding the track. The continuous race action at PIR is a fan favorite with teams being easily accessible for photos and autographs prior to the start of the event. Gates open at 4 p.m. and the rally racing action begins at 6 p.m.

After the PIR stages, the event moves east along the Columbia Gorge where teams will experience the much faster closed county and private roads on Saturday and Sunday. With 18 competition stages and encompassing over 110 miles of competition roads, the Oregon Trail Rally will test teams to the limit.

 The Oregon Trail Rally couldn't come at a better time for David Higgins and Craig Drew of Subaru Rally Team USA, who are in the midst of defending their 2015 national title. Higgins and Drew missed the season opener at Sno*Drift Rally in January, and have a second place finish from last month's Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. Now, Higgins returns to the Oregon Trail Rally where he has won the event seven times before including the last five consecutive years.

 Higgins will need to be in top form to challenge X Games action sports icon and teammate, Travis Pastrana, who re-joined Subaru Rally Team USA this year. The four-time Rally America Champion also boasts two Oregon Trail Rally victories and a win at last month's Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. Pastrana is certainly eyeing a win in Oregon to maintain momentum heading into the season's midpoint.

 The Super Production (SP) Class battle will be hotly contested with a deep field of national and local teams. San Francisco native and SP point's leader, Lauchlin O'Sullivan, will miss Oregon Trail but has handed his driving seat over to Road & Track contributing Editor Jason Harper. Local hot shoe, Jeff Seehorn, of Rockford WA, will provide stiff competition in this class, driving his Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Agatino Fortunato, of Olympia WA, is also piloting a Subaru Impreza WRX, but a brand new 2016 model, and should also be in the mix for a top place at Oregon Trail.

To support the growing fan base for the sport of rallying in the northwest, organizers have added several new spectator areas around Goldendale on Saturday and Dufur, Ore., on Sunday. Mike Nagle, Clerk of the Course, selected this year's route to challenge competitors, but also support fan access. "This is our seventh year competing in Wasco County and we have built a large following across the community. It is important for us to offer fans opportunities to see the teams compete on the closed road stages. We now have several locations each day where fans can view this exciting motorsport in safe and convenient areas."

Fans will have opportunities to visit with the teams and see their cars up close at Parc Exposes, service locations, spectator areas and the victory celebration. Download a free spectator guide to view the event schedule, maps and locations of each viewing point at http://oregontrailrally.com.

Rally racing is one of the world's most challenging and popular motorsports. It is considered by many as the extreme sport of automobile racing and it's often described simply as "real cars, real roads, real fast." Unlike any other type of car racing, rally teams compete in any weather, on challenging forest, mountain or desert roads.

Racing takes place only on "special stages," using demanding back roads temporarily closed by local authorities for the event. "Transits", driven at normal highway speeds with teams fully subject to all traffic laws, connect the "special stage" sections together speeds. Vehicles can only be serviced and repaired at designated "service" locations and for set periods of time.

Rally vehicles are production-based cars and trucks from manufacturers around the world. All competition vehicles are equipped with mandatory safety features to protect the competitors. They compete both for the overall victory and wins within a class structure that groups together vehicles with similar performance.

Each vehicle carries a driver and a co-driver/navigator. Using a detailed route book and a sophisticated rally computer, the co-driver keeps the team on-course and advises the driver of any hazards ahead.  This role is as critical as the driver's skill, since the team is traveling at full racing speeds over roads they have never before seen, in any type of weather.

Contributed by Chris Daley

Flying Cars: Previous Oregon Road Rally races have featured many moments of vehicles leaping into the air.

Oregon Trail Rally Schedule Saturday, April 23 in Goldendale:

Viewing area for spectators

Dalles Mountain Road and Ueker Road: 10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.

Oak Flat Road and Saxton-Bane Road: 12:42 p.m.– 1:42 p.m.

Oak Flat Road and Saxton-Bane Road: 3:50 p.m. – 4:50 p.m.

Maryhill Loops Overlook: 5:48 p.m. – 7:48 p.m.

Cars serviced between stages at Goldendale High School.

 

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