Why Oregon’s ARA round is a must-see this week

Round four of this year’s ARA offers variety, volcanoes, Nikes and some serious hydro power


We’re just a couple of hours south of Olympus country, but this does feel like something of another world. The trees are gone. Replaced by volcanoes.

Welcome to Oregon.

As national championships go, it’s hard to imagine one with more diversity than America. And the move south through the Pacific Northwest demonstrates that variation perfectly. The hills roll, backdropping a stunning patchwork of fields with the roads rollercoasting through. Rising and diving through the stages, it’s almost impossible to focus on apex and exit as Mount Rainier peaks out. Turn another corner and it’s Mount Hood. Or Adams. Or St Helens.


Oregon's mountains provide an incredible backdrop to the event

The Cascade Volcanic Arc has delivered some of the most iconic backdrops in the American season. If you’re a rallying geologist the Boyd Loop stage is the ultimate high as the cars hit the jump a mile or so in and fly through the perfect portrait of an active stratovolcano.

Even cooler, our corner of Oregon is home to Nike and The Dalles Dam.

Beaverton’s Michael Jordan Building is just over 10 miles from the first stage. A 200ft wall which halts the Columbia River to generate 6,180 GWh each year sits on the road section from Saturday to Sunday.

Talking of the stages, there’s a rare glimpse of Tarmac in the ARA season this week. Portland International Raceway (a place where Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi have both celebrated open-wheeled wins) plays host to stages one and two, while the Maryhill test splits Saturday’s gravel.


Portland International Raceway brings in the Friday-night crowds

The roads which vary in width are generally fast and flowing. Arguably one of the biggest differences for this year is how rough the roads are with Saturday evening’s run up Dalles Mtn likely to be one of the more challenging – avoiding punctures in here will be of paramount importance.

Heading south for Sunday, the roads around Dufur are generally smoother and faster. This is where you’ll find the big mountain picture, the Shadowbuck watersplash and the broken down, wooden church near the end of Nagle’s Revenge. Our annual pilgrimage to one of rallying’s most picturesque buildings was even more memorable this time around – as Liam Brewer, the man who owns the church was on hand to offer some background to the building.

Brewer didn’t need any introduction to DirtFish. “One day,” he said. “One day I will make it there.”

You’re always welcome in our house, Liam.


Wooden church near end of Nagle’s Revenge is one of rallying's most picturesque buildings

First car past the church on Sunday will, almost certainly, be a Subaru. Whether it’s one of the two blue and yellow factory WRXs or our own Sam Albert’s Ferrari-engined Impreza remains to be seen.

And yes, we did say two factory Subarus – Travis Pastrana is back after spending the previous round on the bench, giving his body a rest. #199 has always been a huge hit with the fans. This week will be no different; he’ll be given the warmest of welcomes. And so will defending champion and championship leader Brandon Semenuk.

Further down the field, look out for Matt Dickinson’s BRZ Proto. This is another take on a re-engineered Subaru. This time it’s a BRZ with Impreza transmission. An axle problem slowed the car first time out in Olympus, but hopefully those teething problems are solved and we can see the real speed this time around.


Sam Albert's Ferrari-engined Subaru will be seen and heard

The scrap between L4WD Ford Fiesta Rally3 runners went Nick Allen’s way last time out, but defending champion Javier Olivares will be on the hunt for redemption this time around. Richo Healey – co-driven by DirtFish instructor Michelle Miller – is chasing a second L2WD class win on the bounce in his Lexus. The similarly mounted Casen Pederson will also be well worth watching this weekend.

Talking of two-wheel drive, Seamus Burke brings his glorious V6-engined Ford Escort Mk2 to Oregon and, of course, there’s the most eagerly anticipated Volvo in motorsport to watch. Step forward Sean Edwards and Kendra Miller in the meanest looking 242 Turbo in town. All Black works as a livery as well as a rugby team.

The action is underway from Portland International Raceway on Friday evening before a Saturday based around Goldendale and Sunday in Dufur. Stay tuned to DirtFish and all our social channels and we’ll keep you up-to-date from between the volcanoes this week.