Subaru’s nightmare Saturday opens the door in Oregon

With Brandon Semenuk and Travis Pastrana out of Saturday's OTR action, DirtFish's Sam Albert is in the lead fight

Travis 180425

The Oregon Trail Rally result was thrown wide open on Saturday morning’s first gravel stage with both factory Subaru WRXs retiring after hitting the same rock.

First on the road, Travis Pastrana was the first in trouble as he clipped the rock on the inside of a right-hand corner two miles into the Dalles Mountain Down test. The American made it through the 10-miler, but retired at the finish with significant damage to the right-rear corner of the #199 car.

Team-mate Brandon Semenuk hit the same rock, punctured the front-right and pulled up two miles from the finish with suspension failure.

Pastrtana told DirtFish: “We caught a really big rock on the inside of a pretty fast right-hand corner. The whole back [of the car] jumped up in the air. I didn’t think it was actually as bad as it was. We definitely should have stopped [to change the puncture].

Travis out

Pastrana and co-driver Rhi Gelsomino ended their ARA return on the first gravel stage of the Oregon Trail Rally

“We continued on. It didn’t feel that bad driving, but as we came into the stop and I’m like: “We have no brakes!” And literally there’s no brake pad. It’s such a disappointing way to start. We’ll be re-joining tomorrow – even if the car was upside down and in flames, the Vermont SportsCar guys would still get us ready for tomorrow. I feel we should get back out.”

Semenuk suffered his first ARA retirement in almost two years – Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, 2022 was his last early exit before Saturday.

The Canadian said: “It’s a pretty c****y situation. We got up to the top of Dalles Mountain and before the descent, a rock had been pulled onto the road a little bit. We clipped it in the line, and a half-mile down the road realized it was a puncture. We made the decision just to try and drive it out – there’s a lot more time to lose by pulling over and swapping it, so we just tried to manage it.

“The road is so rough, it just kind of rattled the suspension a bit too much and then the damper failed. We’re only like a mile or so from the finish and the damper went right here. We were trying to make the best decision. We didn’t know Travis had a flat and we’re in a race here. It’s tough.”

Semenuk 180425

Semenuk stopped with front-right damage to his Subaru, ending his run of 12 American wins

The departure of both works WRXs leaves Citroën C3 Rally2 driver Ricardo Cordero out front by 15.2 seconds at the end of the opening loop of gravel stages. The three-time NACAM champion heads DirtFish instructor Sam Albert in his Ferrari-engined Subaru.

Semenuk admitted they would be keeping an eye on the battle through the afternoon.

“We’ll definitely keep our eyes on the field,” he said. “Sam’s been driving really well – he lives nearby and he’s got a lot of power. He’ll be up there. And Ricardo has done a bunch of American events now – he goes well and he’s got a nice car. There are some other drivers out there with good experience, but I would say those two guys will be battling it out for the next few stages at least.

“For us, our rally is over. The points thing sucks, but I’m also bummed to miss today’s stages.”

Subaru has confirmed both cars will return to the stages for Saturday afternoon, driving outside of the day’s classification. For Sunday’s Dufur-based day, both will be competing, albeit carrying a 45-minute superally penalty.

Sam Albert

DirtFish instructor Sam Albert is just 15.2 seconds off the lead at the end of the morning's loop of stages