Cordero leads after crazy Oregon Saturday

Round four of this year's ARA took something of a turn on Saturday. Ricardo Cordero leads – here's how


Nobody saw Saturday coming. After 12 American wins on the bounce, it was fair to expect Brandon Semenuk would be lining up number 13 in Oregon this weekend. Instead, Ricardo Cordero sits on a handsome lead with potentially the biggest win of his career in the palm of his hand.

Oregon Trail Rally, round four of the ARA National Championship, binned the script first thing Saturday morning when both factory Subarus hit the same rock on the Dalles Mtn Down stage. Travis Pastrana was first in. He made it through, but not without significant, day-ending damage to his WRX.

Semenuk followed, puncturing the front-right on the sister car. He stopped before the finish after the suspension cried enough. The two Subarus were repaired on the spot, high above the Columbia River Gorge, driven back to service in Goldendale and then allowed to return, non-competitively, for the second loop. Thrilling the fans was very much the order of the afternoon, but any hopes of securing significant ARA points were postponed until Sunday’s powerstage.

Now what? Hello to unchartered territory – especially for Cordero. Competing in Oregon for the first time, the Citroën C3 Rally2 driver was surprised to pass Semenuk’s stricken Subaru in the stage, but astonished to pass Pastrana parked up after the finish.

“Now I must look after the car,” he told DirtFish. “I know I’m in the lead, but I know it can be a big fight.”

That was certainly what DirtFish instructor Sam Albert had in mind. Coming out of SS3, the Ferrari-engined Subaru driver was 18.7s off the lead. Just half a second split the pair on the all-asphalt Maryhill stage which followed, before Albert’s finest hour and his maiden stage win at ARA National level on SS5.

The Californian went four seconds faster than anybody through Oak Flat Reverse, narrowing the gap to the three-time NACAM champion to just 15.2 seconds ahead of lunchtime service.

Goldendale on Saturday lunchtime was alive with chatter about Subaru’s misfortune and the battle that lay ahead for the first non-Subaru win since STPR in 2022.

That fight took a potentially definitive turn before the end of the afternoon’s opening stage, with Albert suffering a puncture on the second run at Dalles Mtn Down. Crossing the line, the frustration was writ large across his face. He’d dropped more than a minute with the flat. The moment had passed. The chance might well have gone and he knew it.

Half a minute down on Albert going into SS6, Javier Olivares moved up to second after the silver-grey Subaru faltered. Olivares delivered yet another super-quick and super-consistent run to the end of the day. The defending L4WD champion arrived at the finish of the last stage unsettled after an unexpected dip in the road.


Olivares was on typically consistent and quick form to move into second place in Oregon

Closing Saturday out, the Dalles Mtn stage was reversed. That meant the finish line, which had been the start for two stages earlier in the day, was predictably rutted where more than 100 cars had spun their wheels through the soft dirt.

Olivares was readying himself to leave the line when he looked on in horror as his rival Nick Allen crossed the finish line and was pitched into a series of terrifying rolls. The second of the two Ford Fiesta Rally3s had landed awkwardly after kicking up the rear, turned right through the fence and taken to the air.

Allen and co-driver Stefan Trajkov were both uninjured. The shaken driver explained his end to the day.

“We had a great stage leading up to the roll, everything was on and we were fully committed in every corner,” he told DirtFish. “We came through the last corner and our note was: “Flat to the finish.” We did that, only to find huge holes built up from the launches off the start of the stage earlier in the day. We didn’t have those marked in the notes, because they weren’t there on the recce.

“We hit the hole, nosed up and all I could see was gravel. That’s not good. We went end over end. Javier [Olivares] was looking back from the end of the stage and he said he could see us 15 feet up in the air, upside down. I don’t know how many times we rolled, somebody said four or five times – it’s hard to know when you’re in that washing machine, just bouncing around waiting for it to end. It felt like it went on forever.”

Allen crash

Allen's Fiesta was tipped into a hige accident at the end of the final stage of the day

Having put the flying into the flying finish, Allen actually registered a time for SS9 and would have sat fourth overall overnight. With his Fiesta upside down and in a field of cows, that position was passed to Irishman John Coyne (Hyundai i20 N Rally2) with Jacob Despain (NA4WD Subaru Impreza) and top O2WD runner Ryan Booth rounding out the top six.

Roberto Yglesias delivered another strong day to lead L2WD, almost a minute up on fellow Fiesta driver Sean Donnelly. In the Regional event, Subaru drivers Andy Miller and Steven Redd are split by 43.1s at the head of the field, with enough pace to sit them fourth and fifth overall if they were running in the National event.

Sunday’s final day takes the crews to Dufur for two loops of four stages. After one of the craziest days in the recent history of ARA, everybody – especially leader Cordero – is looking for an easier ride to the finish.


A puncture cost Albert his place in the lead fight, but the combination of Ferrari engine and Subaru chassis kept Oregon on its toes