Words by Andy Lilienthal. Photos by Mercedes Lilienthal.
Rally racing is one of those forms of motorsports that takes skill, talent, and a lot of courage. I mean, you're hurtling down an unpaved road with nearly zero runoff, unlike begin on a paved race track. Should you make a mistake, there's a good chance you're going to hit something. Hard. Driving like a madman (or madwoman) down dirt roads, sliding sideways, going through water holes and over jumps—all part of a day's drive at a stage rally race. And as a spectator, there are a host of sensory inputs you experience. The sound of the exhaust; the smell of race fuel (or burning clutch); the taste of dust in your mouth after a car slides past you; and the feel of the elements as you camp out waiting for the next driver to come flying by. I must say—it's ridiculously fun; almost addictive.
Mercedes and I attended the Oregon Trail Rally, held May 3–5. Part of the Rally America circuit, the first day's stages are held at Portland International Raceway; day two is held around Dufur, Oregon; day three is held around Hood River, Oregon. The event attracts both big names, such as Travis Pastrana and David Higgins driving their factory-backed Subaru Impreza WRX STI rally cars, as well as amateur rally drivers who may only compete in a couple of events a year campaigning decades-old lower-dollar race cars. In the middle are prepped Ford Fiestas, a lot of Imprezas and WRXs, a Scion xD, and a host of other neat cars. One of the best thing about rally is the variety. Race a Volvo 240? Sure. A 1969 SAAB? Let's race! A Honda Fit, CRX, and Civic? You bet.
The overall winner of the race was driver David Higgins and his co-driver Craig Drew in their Subaru Motorsports STI. Second place went to the other Subaru-backed team of Travis Pastrana and Christine Beavis. In fact, the top five finishers were all in Subarus, something that shouldn't be too surprising as it's the most popular car to use. And while we love the big, fast cars, we have a soft spot for the smaller, slower vehicles. I know, shocking.
We had a blast and highly recommend checking out a rally race near you if you've never been. These races have an energy to them; a different feeling that on-road racing—it's infectious. I can't wait until the next one. Additionally, with all those WRXs out there, it planted all sorts of seeds as to how we'd like to modify ours. While we figure out what our next mod will be to our Subie, here are some pics from the event. Enjoy.