Flying high in Oregon with Team DirtFish

David Evans was on hand to witness a fantastic effort from several members of the Fish on ARA's Oregon Trail Rally


What was Sean Edwards doing? In the middle of the night – in the middle of the Oregon Trail Rally – the world’s fastest Volvo driver was lifting a rear axle out of a total stranger’s backyard somewhere in the Portland suburbs.

It’s fair to say Friday night into Saturday morning didn’t play out quite the way he expected. Probably a good time for a word from him.

He takes up the story. An extraordinary story. “Just after the start of the second stage at Portland International Raceway I changed gear and the back of the car started making a terrible noise. It sounded like bones breaking!”

The car’s differential had stepped in to spoil the weekend for Sean and co-driver (and fellow instructor) Kendra Miller.

“When I was standing at the side of the track, it was just about my lowest time in the sport,” Sean said.

He said: 'It’s at the side of my house, you can go and collect it' Sean Edwards

For those of you not fortunate enough to know Sean, he’s simply one of the nicest and most upbeat and positive human beings on the planet. Nothing stops Sean smiling. But his Volvo’s back end looked to have done the job. Almost.

The smile’s back.

“It wasn’t all bad,” he grinned in recollection. “Because the field was reverse seeded, we got to stand and watch everybody else go through. Brandon [Semenuk] and Travis [Pastrana] were good, but Sam’s [Albert] car was like a spaceship! So cool.”

ARA’s not like the World Rally Championship, there’s no restricted service then straight into parc ferme for the night – the cars can be worked on until they’re required at parc expose (where all the crews and the cars gather in the center of a town to sign autographs for fans) the next morning.


Sean sent a message into some Volvo groups, but he didn’t hold out much hope.

“I thought it was finished,” he said. “But then we got a reply from a guy saying he had exactly the rear axle we were after. But… he was away in Japan. He said: ‘It’s at the side of my house, you can go and collect it, it’s yours if you want it. But please be quiet!’

“He gave me the address and I went to the house, found it and then wondered how I was going to get it into my truck. I balanced it on a wheelie bin and moved it that way. It was two o’clock in the morning and I honestly wasn’t that quiet. I’m sorry.

“Honestly, I owe that guy everything.”

That was two in the morning. He’d still got to fit the axle and make it to parc in the next six hours.


The Boyd Loop jump was well and truly sent by Sam Albert and all the Team DirtFish crews

Arriving into Goldendale on Saturday morning, Alasdair Lindsay, Brenten Kelly and I sought our competing co-workers Michelle Miller (co-driving Richo Healey) and Sam Albert.

Had anybody seen Sean and Kendra? No.

Had anybody heard from Sean and Kendra? No.

Game over then. We went about our business and started interviewing much of the rest of the field. Half an hour later and right on the limit of not being able to start Saturday, BK gets a message from Michelle.

He’s made it.

And there she was. Karen. In all her glory. Karen’s the stunning, 41-year-old 242 Turbo which had caused all the trouble the night before. Soon as he parked, Sean was gone. What now?

Food. He hadn’t eaten. And he’d only slept for an hour. Step in the media team with the deployment of our emergency donuts.

Back in the game, Saturday was done without too much trouble. Finally, some sleep before starting the final morning out of Dufur. No sign of them again. They were out. Again.

This time we couldn’t wait, we had to get in position to shoot the Boyd Loop stage, but we did so with heavy hearts, knowing Sean’s run was done.

Ping, message… he’s back. Again. Fuel issue is sort of sorted.

BK replied, telling him where we were in the stage with a reminder not to lift.


Sean Edwards and Kendra Miller didn't need reminding not to lift

And then, an hour or so later, a chilly Oregon wind carried the familiar whoosh of the Volvo’s turbo and Sean, Kendra and Karen came into sight. And she was pinned with permission for take-off over the famous jump backdropped by Mount Hood.

The cheer as our three buddies took to the air in front of the volcano was superb.

Last weekend was one of the very best. The absence of two Subarus at the sharp end reshaped the rally, but this was more than that. This was about being part of the team.

Team DirtFish.

Sean and Kendra carved out a result rich in memories. For Michelle, second in L2WD alongside Richo Healey moves the Lexus pair into the lead of the championship. How cool is that?!


Michelle Miller co-drove Richo Healey to the championship lead in their class

Our awesome friend and colleague Michelle is currently the best in America in her category. Michelle and Richo truly deserve success this season – their progression in speed and commitment has been one of the storylines across the past 12 months. And you’re right Richo… that new pink handbrake grip is clearly worth an extra 15bhp!

And Sam? What can we say?

For miles either side of the Columbia River, you could hear those eight cylinders sing.

Second place was a superb result for the Subaru-Ferrari, but it was hard not to think what might have been were it not for three punctures.

Sam and co-driver Krista Skucas were just sensational, winning Saturday morning’s final stage to carve a four-second chunk out of Ricardo Cordero’s lead. The dream was real. The world’s most talked-about DirtFish-liveried Japanese-Italian-American alliance was going to win its first ARA round.


Sam Albert's Subaru, complete with Ferrari V8 shoehorned under the hood, is nothing if not spectacular

Sadly it didn’t work out that way. But they were justifiably stoked with second.

Talking to Sam is a real eye-opener. His absolute can-do mentality typifies his approach to everything. If he’s doing it, he’s doing it. There’s nothing new about a driver grabbing their laptop as soon as they arrive into service. But Sam wasn’t watching onboards, he was downloading data from the wailing Impreza, trying to fathom why he’d only got 75% throttle.

He figured it. Of course he did.

Team DirtFish… second overall, leading the championship and lifting axles in the middle of the night. What a weekend. What a team. Once again, it’s a privilege to call these people co-workers.

And an even greater honor to call them friends.