Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Oregon Trail Rally promises battle between Higgins and L'Estage

Round Three: Rally America National Championship

Much like American pioneers who followed the Oregon Trail, the 2012 Rally America National Championship will head west to the Oregon Trail Rally for the third installment of the six-event National Championship on May 4-6, 2012, in Portland, Ore., drawing top national and international teams as well as local competitors.

The Oregon Trail Rally powered by Dick Hannah Subaru begins at Portland International Raceway on Friday before moving for the rest of the weekend to the fast gravel stages under the formidable Mt. Hood along the Columbia River Gorge.

Last year's Oregon Trail Rally winners, Subaru Rally Team USA's David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew, will strive to extend their National Championship points lead at Oregon after winning the Sno*Drift Rally in January and taking second overall at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in February.

L'Estage must battle hard at Oregon
Trail Rally after a DNF at Rally in the
100 Acre Woods. Credit/RHAW Rally
Facebook/Tim Williams
If Higgins wins the Oregon Trail Rally he will open a sizeable lead over his closest Open Class rival, the Rockstar Energy Drink Team of Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard, who unfortunately missed points when they failed to finish the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood. L'Estage needs a win at Oregon to keep pressure on Higgins.

2011 Super Production Class winners, T-Hanson Motorsports' Travis and father/co-driver Terry Hanson, hold the second overall spot, but are tied for 1st in class with 2002 U.S. 2WD rally champion Lauchlin O'Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam.

Both teams have experienced difficulties the last few events, but the Oregon Trail Rally is closer to O'Sullivan's home in San Francisco where driver Travis Hanson is not expected to make the trip across the country from his home in Woodsville, N.H. O'Sullivan is a favorite to win Oregon and the Hansons expect to resume their title defense at the Waste Management Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) in Wellsboro, Penn., on June 1-2.

Chris Duplessis has controlled the 2WD Class in his Ford Fiesta R2 this year and currently holds a 10-point advantage over Scion xD driver Andrew Comrie-Picard. However, Duplessis faces a new international challenger when the Australian-based Summit Rally Team arrives with a pair of 400hp Nissan Silvias piloted by Will Orders and Ross Allan in an attempt to topple Duplessis' dominance. Duplessis is up to the task as the American has been perfecting his skills facing the world's top 2WD drivers at the WRC Academy.

Fans can meet their the teams and see their favorite cars on Thursday beginning at 11 a.m. at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland.

Rally competition begins on Friday at 5 p.m. when the first four stages take place at Portland International Raceway. Tickets are $10 and are available at the PIR box office; children under 12 with an adult get in free.

On Saturday and Sunday the competition moves to The Dalles and Dufur where teams face challenging gravel roads surrounding Mt. Hood. The roads are fast and pitted with sharp rocks that can keep a service crew busy with repairs.

Fans who cannot attend in person can catch live event streaming and video recaps, as well as regularly updated stage times and results, at Rally-America.com.

For a complete schedule of the event, please visit Rally-America.com. A spectator guide with driving instructions to viewing areas will be available on the website soon.

The 2012 Rally America National Championship is proudly supported by VP Racing Fuels - the Official Fuel of Rally America, Subaru of America, Ford Racing, Exedy Racing Clutches, Hawk Performance Brakes, ParkNBlend and RECARO seats.