If you grew up in the 1990s, the words ‘Oregon Trail’ likely bring back great memories of computer gaming on MS-DOS, or if you’re a history buff, you might think of the actual 2100+ mile trek linking Missouri and Oregon City the game is based on.
The Dalles, OR was one of the final stops on the trail before it reached its end, and in 2021 it plays host to the final round of the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship.
Let’s all take a journey out west to the Oregon Trail Rally as we tell you everything you need to know to be ready for the weekend. Hopefully we stay safe from dysentery on our way.
The Oregon Trail Rally can trace its roots back to 1984, where a one-off event was won by the US legend John Buffum. Over a decade later in 1995, the Oregon Rally Group was formed and brought the name back, and ever since then it has run annually, save for last year when it was cancelled.
David Higgins has won the rally 10 times, with the next highest win count being Travis Pastrana with a measly three by comparison. Other previous winners include Stig Blomqvist, Tim Patterson and Andrew Pinker.
The Oregon Trail Rally has the unique distinction of offering the most asphalt of any event in the ARA: the mixed-surface Friday night stages at Portland International Raceway as well as the all-asphalt Mary Hill hill-climb stage.
With all the spectator miles PIR has, it comes with some historically rough artificial jumps that have been known to break cars that show off too much.
On stage, average speeds are higher than normal, so drivers will have to pay extra attention to notes and any unexpected problems in the road, as they’ll have less time to react.
The event being pushed back from April has put it in a much cooler, rainier time of the year as well, meaning this could be different for drivers to adapt to than years prior.
What happened last year?
While last year Oregon Trail was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019 ran as planned in April with over 70 entries.
Higgins pulled out his 10th win, running away from team-mate Pastrana by about a minute. Barry McKenna and his S2000 Fiesta were able to take third.
The top five were rounded out by Brandon Semenuk, in a McKenna Motorsport Fiesta R5, and Piotr Fetela in his Fiesta Proto. Jeff Seehorn would have slotted into the fifth position but was given over 37 minutes of penalty time for having an underweight car – an unfortunate end to an extremely strong rally for the Washington native.
The 2021 entry
This year’s 70-car entry list is chock-full of great names. Of course, we have the Vermont SportsCar trio of Pastrana, Semenuk and Block, as well as RC2 regulars John Coyne, Enda McCormack, and Dave Wallingford.
Notable changes in the field, however, include Hamad Al Wahaibi in a McKenna Motorsport Rally2 Fiesta, Kyle Tilley in his new-to-him M-Sport Fiesta R5, and Javier Castro in the first R4 car in the US.
Dave Carapetyan, AKA Texas Dave, joins the field as well with Mark Piatkowski being one of the top competitors for him in the LN4 class. Piatkowski only needs to start the event to secure the championship, but plans to run his Subaru 2.5 RS to its full potential for its last event of the season.
O2WD will not be contested by Seamus Burke who has already won the title, but will instead see Derick Nelson and David Clark enter with the highest winning potential. William Hudson will also be competing in his first rally since 2017 behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta.
The 2021 itinerary
Oregon Trail has historically been the only three-day rally on the calendar (until Southern Ohio adds a third day next year) with a night of super specials at Portland International Raceway on Friday, before getting into the rest of the stages on Saturday and Sunday.
Four loops of two stages each will fill Saturday’s schedule all the way from 9am to 7pm. This day will include the famed Mary Hill twice over, as well as a slew of gravel stages.
Sunday will be another full day of racing taking place two identical loops of three stages each, and then a third loop of two. Sunday, the Boyd Loop Short stage will be run thrice, the famous Boyd Jump seeing action three times over.