The British duo, David Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew, never relinquished their lead from the start and drove a masterful race to establish a 2 minute window over their competition and enough breathing room to drive the last day without difficulty. However, the team nearly ended their event when Higgins struck exposed bedrock at high speeds that tore through their Subaru Impreza WRX STI suspension on stage 16. Higgins gingerly drove through the last stage of the day as the car severely pulled to one side and just made it back to service for repairs.
“I’ve got to thank Subaru for providing such a reliable, durable and fast car to Drew and I,” said Higgins, “Once we amassed a big lead it afforded us the opportunity to really dial back the speed on Sunday and reduce the risks. We didn’t win stages outright but knew it was the right strategy for victory. This is a very challenging event and I enjoy the big mix of character in the stages. There is still a long season ahead but we are in a really good spot now in the points.”
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This Oregon Trail Rally victory marks the third event win in a row for Higgins and Drew, and the fifth Oregon Trail Rally overall win for Higgins in his career. Higgins extends his Rally America National Championship lead in the standings with 61 points.
Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino persevered through multiple mechanical difficulties to salvage second place in their 2012 Ford Fiesta. The team fell behind early when they lost a wheel on stage 3, suffered a driveshaft failure on stage 5 and more tire punctures throughout the second day. Block also impacted the same exposed bedrock that Higgins hit and managed to get the car back to service without overheating the car. Block readjusted to win every stage on Sunday but could not make up time on Higgins’ substantial lead.
Indonesia’s Rifat Sungkar amazingly completed the podium in third place in his Rally America debut with co-driver Marshall Clarke. Clarke having raced in the states previously provided Sungkar with a quick education in American racing. Sungkar survived two nearly catastrophic incidents when he impacted a stage 2 guardrail and went off course on stage 17. Sungkar’s rally was nearly over when he lost power transiting back to the final control zone if not for Art Gruszka, a fellow class rival, offering to tow Sungkar to the victory circle.
Disappointingly, top Rally America contenders Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard from the Rockstar Energy Rally Team crashed hard on stage 9 when L’Estage misheard a navigation note and launched off the road into a tree. L’Estage was second in the Championship standings and had upgraded to a World Rally Championship Mitsubishi Lancer to improve his chances of overtaking Higgins. After winning the Sno*Drifty Rally, the opening round of the Rally America season, L’Estage has failed to finish the last two events.
In the Super Production (SP) Class David Sterckx and Karen Jankowski reinserted themselves into class contention with an SP victory. The pair led the event from the start despite experiencing engine problems that could have prevented the team from even starting. However, Sterckx placed blistering times from the very beginning and built a 4 minute lead to stand on his second SP podium of the year. The team finished the 2013 Oregon Trail Rally in fourth overall as well.
“The rally was a real pleasure because I am finally getting closer to the limit since last year was only my first year on gravel,” said Sterckx, “Karen and I have a good communication and we are getting more comfortable with the notes. Tires were very important this weekend and our Pirelli tires were unbelievable. So many teams had multiple flats this weekend but we didn’t have a single one, which was a big advantage for us. We had issues with our engine but the Subaru engines are so strong it held together all weekend.”
Hood River, OR local Dave Henderson with co-driver Terrence McDowell fought a furious battle of seconds with 2012 Super Production Class Champions, Lauchlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam for second place. Henderson overtook O’Sullivan on stage 15, and O’Sullivan suffered a massive rollover on stage 16. This is Henderson’s second consecutive SP national podium at the Oregon Trail Rally. Henderson also won all three regional rally events – Wagons Ho!, Shunpiker Stages and the Trails End Regional Rally.
Third place in Super Production was awarded to another Oregon driver, Mike Goodwin, with co-driver Michael Milos, after event officials discovered a timing error that moved current SP points leaders Evan Cline and Jake Blattner into fourth place.
Ford Fiesta drivers finally broke the stranglehold that Scion Racing Rally xD’s Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey held in the Two-Wheel Drive (2WD) category this season by taking two 2WD podium spots.
Australian newcomers Brendan Reeves and Rhianon Smyth impressed by driving their 2012 Ford Fiesta R2 to a 5th overall placement and winning the 2WD category in their first American race. Reeves and Smyth’s have previous WRC Academy experience and proved that 2WD drivetrains can crack the top five amidst other cars with twice the horsepower.
“What an amazing feeling it is to come to America for the first time and win the class convincingly,” Reeves said. “We had a trouble-free run thanks to Team O’Neil and the effort they put in. The Ford Fiesta was brilliant even on today’s blindingly fast stages, and Rhianon did a great job calling the notes.”
Fellow Ford Fiesta drivers Dillon Van Way and Andrew Edwards drove a relatively problem free race and held third place for much of the event until Comrie-Picard experienced overheating issues on the last stage. Comrie-Picard lost significant power and ceded second place to Van Way. The Scion team had to be towed into the final controls by three different teams to finish the event and take third place in class.
Van Way and Edwards now have two second place finishes this year and Comrie-Picard’s third place finish helps to keep his 2WD points lead in the standings. Notably, Edward McNelly and Ole Holter was not able to finish the Oregon Trail Rally when they went off-course on stage 5.
The Oregon Trail Rally saw the largest entries of the year with 74 cars. Due to the fast and rough stages 31 cars were not able to finish the event, though some were able to reenter using SuperRally rules in national competition and some teams reentered for the following regional rally.
The fourth round of the Rally America National Championship takes place at the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally in Wellsboro, Penn. on May 31-June 1.
Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Ford Racing, VP Racing Fuels, Honda Development Research, GrimmSpeed, Exedy Racing Clutches and Teleblend.
2013 Oregon Trail Rally Top 10
Pos Class Driver/CoDriver Time
1 Open David Higgins / Craig Drew 1:46:47.0
2 Open Ken Block / Alessandro Gelsomino 1:48:34.8
3 Open Rifat Sungkar / Marshall Clarke 1:55:40.6
4 SP David Sterckx / Karen Jankowski 1:55:52.9
5 2WD Brendan Reeves / Rhianon Smyth 1:58:46.1
6 SP Dave Henderson / Terrence McDowell 2:00:12.1
7 Open Max Riddle / Darren Garrod 2:00:12.1
8 2WD Dillon Van Way / Andrew Edwards 2:02:25.3
9 Open George Plsek / Piers O’Hanlon 2:04:05.9
10 SP Mike Goodwin / Michael Milos 2:05:58.5