How DirtFish’s instructors fared on Oregon Trail

Eric Schofhauser and Kendra Miller enjoyed an up-and-down event in Portland last weekend but made it to the finish

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We last caught up with them in the lead up to the Oregon Trail Rally, but how did they get on?

DirtFish instructors Eric Schofhauser and Kendra Miller were feeling excited – and understandably a little nervous – ahead of what was not just their first rally together, but their first event in their respective roles.

Schofhauser is an accomplished co-driver but had never driven on a rally before, while co-driver Miller had never competed on a stage rally before in her entire life.

Yet, despite their inexperience, the DirtFish pairing brought their Subaru BRZ home 36th and sixth in class – though given they had superrally penalties it’s their two stage wins in class that really showed their pace.

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So, what was it like?

“We went into something that we hadn’t done before, so there was a lot of unknowns there,” Miller told DirtFish. “So, to get through it with as much success as we did being rookies is pretty much an achievement. I feel like I won on my own.”

Schofhauser too was over the moon about the experience and found the torrential rain a particular highlight.

“Overall, the event went great. The only real hiccup for us was when we broke an axle at the start of Maryhill, stage five,” he said. “So that ended up making us have to superrally.

“The second day was all just competing for fun, which kind of took the stress off a little bit.

“We were setting good times and having good fun, driving smart, but for us the highlights we took away, I think the day one and day two highlights for us were probably driving in the rain, torrential rain.

“We caught got in torrential rain, wipers full blast, like one of those rally moments where you’re having to rely on your notes and not what you can see to feel confident you can drive the stage quickly.

“I lucked out because a lot of other competitors were complaining about dust, so we lucked out with some rain. It was a blessing. And today, getting the jump three times.”

But while fun and enjoyment was the name of the game, their biggest pleasure on the rally was the fact that they were both completely synchronized on the stages, making a big difference to their performance.

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“It was just the big learning curve, being my first rally, first time calling pacenotes, finding that flow, learning how everything is going to work and we really got it together yesterday and it really made today fantastic,” said Miller.

Schofhauser added: “As a driver for the first time, getting the right number of notes, and to not have confidence in them until being on stage, and to hear them called and then actually following them and it worked, it was super satisfying.

“Being in sync with Kendra on some of these notes, I’d commit to a corner and then she’d call the in or the don’t and I could follow it. Or a hug and I’d hug the corner and get the right line.”

Miller felt exactly the same, highlighting a moment on SS6 where their partnership worked to perfection.

“Driving up Goodnoe, we were both staring at the sun, couldn’t really see anything and yet because we had our notes and we were in sync, Eric was able to connect to every corner no problem.

“That’s the beauty part. Fast is great, jumping is great, but what really makes it beautiful is when you sync up with your driver and co-driver and everything just happens.”

For two rally school instructors, their experience on Oregon is priceless. It allows them to go back to DirtFish Rally School armed with knowledge that will only help them better serve customers who want to go stage rallying.

“I think what’s tough to get across with DirtFish, is what you see on stage rally is the survival mentality,” explained Schofhauser.

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“DirtFish is pretty open, pretty safe, so people want to come and have a good time and I’m happy to cater to that.

“But once when you get someone that wants to go stage rallying, this is something I can rely on to really be like, ‘this is how it’s going to be on stage, we can’t drive like that’ or ‘we need to take this approach to the corner,’ and being able to really adapt our driving to the surface.

“That’s a huge part of stage rally. I could have called a note on recce and it’s a completely different corner when I get to it, so I’m having to rely on the notes, plus reading the road, plus having the experience.

“So being able to translate that and understand that aspect of driving, not just trying to send it into a corner.

“Yeah, have fun, but recognize the consequences, you’re gonna have a different mentality.”

Words:Rob Hansford