“Triumvirate an association or group of three,” and that in my mind is exactly what Oregon Trail Rally can be described as! The only three-day event in the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National calendar has now switched to the closing event of the season rather than a mid-year stop off.
Each of the three days have quite unique characteristics compared to any other event on the calendar. Day one is based in the darkness of the fall evening at the renowned Portland International Raceway (PIR) with a single stage repeated utilizing the racetrack and access roads with an interesting man-made jump right before the finish line.
Day two moves east and actually over state lines into Washington, with the action centered around the town of Goldendale. There’s an exciting twist as we have the pleasure of an asphalt stage on gravel tires as we climb the Maryhill Loops road, which is repeated in the dark.
That is quite the change to the sandy but fast farmland stages that the rest of the day takes place on. Add in the darkness component and that will be a stage to throw up some surprises. Day three is then a ferocious hurtle through the scenic and often sinuous farm land roads outside Dufur Oregon, all under the vista of the snow capped Mount Hood – very picturesque.
But what rally driver comes to a rally just to look at the local scenery? I know my driver for the weekend certainly isn’t here as a tourist! While he may be a novice as a rally driver, Kyle Tilley is anything but a junior at competitive driving. His honor roll includes more accolades than a rally purist may know or could truly appreciate.
However one recent result alone – a win at the Daytona 24 hours – is surely credible enough to make any rally fan sit up and take note. If not, then look no further than a fourth place finish and an RC2 win on his debut to the R5 class (and second ever rally) on the recent Lake Superior Rally.
But no sooner had the champagne dried on that result, Kyle was making plans to continue with his R5 adventure and a new car was secured from Northern Ireland and flown over to the West Coast USA, followed in the slipstream by myself as I took this opportunity of a gap in the calendar to jump in with Kyle in his new car.
I am a fan of all things rallying and the ubiquitous Metro 6R4 is an iconic car and a few months ago Kyle and I had a enthusiastic chat about the pristine example that Kyle himself owns, and before long we were chatting about trying a rally together one day. Oregon is that day, or triumvirate of days I hope.
I have had the pleasure to co-drive for racing drivers in the past and they are a unique bunch, they bring a perspective to rallying that perhaps other singular discipline competitors don’t consider. Racing drivers tend to make very precise pacenotes and yet they are not used to driving and listening to another voice at the same time. Racers more often drive to what they see, in rallying we more often drive to what we hear.
I am looking forward to being the voice in Kyle's ear and commanding his focus rather than a four abreast squabble at Road AmericaMartin Brady
You could look to the record of a certain Mr Räikkönen and his excursions off stage as a barometer of how some racers can take to the discipline of a thousand corners once as opposed to one corner a thousand times, but equally go and look at some of the onboard of Robert Kubica especially in the older two liter Subaru Impreza WRC car and you can be mesmerized by the commitment and speed carried.
I think Kyle is in this vein. He can carry high speed with the same comfort in Daytona’s banked back straight as he can in the darkness of LSPR forest roads. It is fitting that we will start the rally on the racetrack I describe above, as that will be familiar territory for Kyle – he may not even need to rely on me to find his way around PIR!
But when we get up into the country around Goldnedale and Dufur I am looking forward to being the voice in his ear and commanding his focus rather than a four abreast NASCAR squabble at Road America that he is used to, or the intense concentration of finding your braking point just right on the phenomenal straightaway in an LMP2 car at Road Atlanta.
The RC2 competition will be swelled at Oregon by the addition of a very successful WRC-level visitor in Hamed Al-Whabi in another Fiesta, and the battle for the championship is being fought out between Irish Americans John Coyne and Enda McCormack.
The affectionately named “Savage” Dave Wallingford also returns to the R5 field in his Fiesta. It is to be quite the finale to the 2021 American Rally Association season, I am hoping to bookend the season with an enjoyable rally and help Kyle earn another impressive result.