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It’s time again for the most exciting motorsport in the world to make its annual visit to Oregon. Round 4 of the Rally America Championship comes to town, May 15-17, for the extremely popular and challenging Oregon Trail Rally. This year’s event will follow the familiar format of spectator special stages, which are special sections of the rally on temporarily closed roads where the teams are driving flat out against the clock at amazing speeds, in the heart of the city at Portland International Raceway (PIR) on Friday, followed by some new and exciting special stages on the forest roads south of the city of Hood River on Saturday and Sunday.

After eight very successful years of running the event to the west of Portland the event will move east to beautiful Hood River. Oregon Trail Rally Co-Chairman Matt Tabor is excited about moving to this scenic area of the state. “This year we are changing our event base to Hood River. We want to thank the people of Columbia and Tillamook Counties, and especially the city of Vernonia, for their great hospitality over the last several years. They always made us feel welcome and we are proud to have been able to contribute to the Vernonia Food Bank and High School fund raising activities over the years. We are looking forward to this new adventure in Hood River and Wasco Counties, and to bringing the national competitors to these excellent roads.”

The Oregon Trail Rally is known as a tough test for rally racing teams as they take on the challenging Northwest forestry roads. While the event is held in late spring, unpredictable weather conditions have always been a factor for competitors. This coupled with the tight and twisty nature of the forest roads quite often make this event a battle of attrition.

Teams from across North America and Europe are scheduled to compete at the three day event. Subaru Rally Team USA driver & Freestyle Motocross Champion, Travis Pastrana, and legendary World Rally Championship co-driver, Derek Ringer, took their first win of the 2008 Rally America season at last year’s Oregon Trail Rally. Pastrana achieved a total of three overall wins in 2008, including a gold medal at X Games 14, as he went on to win his third Rally America Championship. His 2009 season has gotten off to mixed start with a win at the first event and a DNF (Did Not Finish) on the second. Pastrana is sure to be pushing for a win at The Oregon Trail Rally to get his 2009 Rally America Championship campaign back on track.

Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb earned second place at Oregon Trail last year in their NOS Energy Drink Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. He is currently sharing the 2009 Rally America Championship overall lead with Hollywood stunt driver and Drifting Champion, Tanner Foust, from the Rockstar Rally Team driving a new Libra Racing prepared Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Unlike circuit racing, Rally racing takes place mostly on temporarily closed gravel roads, and the course is unknown to competitors until they face the special stage at speed. Variable road conditions, changing weather and the race against the clock must all be taken into account by rally teams as they hurtle their finely tuned racing machines through day and night. The three-day contest includes 16 timed competitive special stages, with the action taking places at Portland International Raceway on Friday and on the challenging forestry roads near Hood River on Saturday and Sunday.

Mike Nagle, Clerk of the Course for the event, has put together a challenging new course for the national and international competitors. “This year’s forest stages will be entirely new to competitors. This will add another twist to the event. We have run regional rally events in the Hood River area over the last 3 years with great support from local businesses and land owners. We are delighted to be able to bring this national event and the associated economic benefits to the area.”

The event begins at Portland International Raceway (PIR) on Friday evening with a series of timed competitive special stages specifically designed for spectator access. “Our Friday night spectacle at PIR has developed over the years to be one of the best spectator formats in North America. Spectators will have the opportunity to see the cars and competitors up close with full “pit access” at the car display (Parc Expose) and feel the excitement of Rally competition. We are grateful to Portland International Raceway for the support”, commented Ben Bradley, Oregon Trail Rally Co-Chairman. Additional free spectator locations will be available as the cars compete on the gravel roads of the Hood River area throughout the event.

Event Schedule (tentative):

Friday, May 15
18:00 – 21:45
Spectator Spectacular
Portland International Raceway

Saturday, May 16
10:00 – 12:00
Parc Expose
Hood River Fairgrounds, Odell

11:00
First Car starts Day Two
Hood River Fairgrounds, Odell

11:00 – 19:00
Competition Stages (Free)
Hood River Area

18:30
First Car Finishes Day Two
Hood River Fairgrounds, Odell

Sunday, May 17
09:00
First Car starts Day Three
Hood River Fairgrounds, Odell

09:00 – 14:30
Competition Stages (Free)
Hood River Area

14:00
First Car Finishes Event
Hood River Fairgrounds, Odell

Rally Headquarters: Best Western Hood River Inn, Hood River. 541-386-2200

Additional information on the 2009 event will be posted on the events website, http://www.oregontrailrally.com, as details become available.

Image (c) Lorne Trezise – Rally America – Travis Pastrana, 2008 Oregon Trail Rally winner

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