Nine stage wins and a victory margin over Travis Pastrana of one minute and 16 seconds is an impressive feat on its own, but even more so when you consider that 1984 World Rally Champion Stig Blomqvist was 37 years Pastrana’s elder in doing so.
But the 2005 Oregon Trail Rally was actually a much closer-fought affair than the statistics suggest.
At 58-years-old, Blomqvist arrived on the west coast two months after recording a top 20 finish on Rally Sweden. The veteran clearly hadn’t lost any of his speed and showed as much over the course of 18 stages (stage five was canceled) on the Hillsboro-based event.
Competing on his first Rally America event, Blomqvist – driving a Group N Subaru Impreza WRX STi – set two fastest stage times to lie just a second off the top of the leaderboard before the cancelation of SS5.
Pastrana also made swift progress to the top, and briefly headed the rally on SS6 before Blomqvist took over after another stage win on SS7.
Many had tipped pre-event favorite Blomqvist to streak away once at the head of the field, but the Swede was unable to shirk off the attentions of that year’s eventual ARA champion Pat Richard, who had completed a miraculous recovery after early drama.
A driveshaft failure on the opening stage dropped the Canadian down to 25th in the order, but then a determined drive over the next 10 stages brought him to 25.7s off Blomqvist.
That was until Richard hit gearbox trouble, ruling him out for good this time.
With Richard now out of the picture, Blomqvist’s advantage at the front was restored to over 40 seconds over Pastrana after SS11. Pastrana closed the gap slightly over the next two tests, but Blomqvist reasserted his dominance by easing away incrementally in the final stretch.
It said a lot about the American that he hauled his own Group N Impreza back to within 38s and then maintained that deficit for another two stages before Blomqvist stretched his legs once more.