Logging trucks and mushroom hunters, beware: This weekend, souped-up Subarus will be spinning up gravel and flying over potholes in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Oregon Trail Rally, a series of races that take place on asphalt and gravel roads throughout Oregon, draws more than 70 teams for a three-day race across 100 miles of terrain, starting on the track at Portland International Raceway, traversing logging roads around Hood River and ending on Main Street in Dufur.
All cars are street legal, and all roads are real roads that average drivers travel. But while we might take the corners at 25 mph, rally drivers will hit them at 60.
Here’s what Dave Henderson, a privateer driver who has raced in the Oregon Trail Rally for the past four years, says spectators need to know.
Now you see it...
The rally isn’t just for drivers—spectators are welcome, though it’s not worth staking out a spot in the sticks. “Rally is not the easiest thing to go watch,” Henderson says. “You hear a car coming, and then all of a sudden the car comes and then they hit the brakes, go around the corner and then they’re gone.” At the Oregon Trail Rally, spectators are better off watching the in-town stages from spectator stands at PIR, as well as in Hood River and Dufur.
Need for speed...
The rally is split into three classes: “open,” which allows modifications under the hood (“those are the half-million-dollar cars,” says Henderson); “super production,” all-wheel drive with limited modifications (like Henderson’s 2004 Subaru STI); and “two-wheel drive.” Once the race has started, a co-driver reads a series of notes to the driver, warning about tricky corners. Cars start a minute apart. The winner is determined by who has the lowest overall time after 17 stages.
Perfect makes perfect...
Unless they can pay to close roads, drivers don’t
practice. “In rally, there’s no practice,” Henderson says. “The top guys
do. They’ll go out on country roads and close it proper. But with
privateers, your first taste of gravel at speed is the very first stage
of the day.”
GO: The Oregon Trail Rally begins at Portland International Raceway, 1940 N Victory Blvd., on Friday, May 3. 6 pm. $10. The rally continues Saturday, May 4, at Hood River County Fairgrounds, 3020 Wyeast Road, Odell. 9 am. $10. The rally ends on Main Street in Dufur on Sunday, May 5. 10 am. $10.