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Oregon Trail Rally launches road race beginning May 3

The Oregon Trail Rally launches Friday, May 3, in Portland, then weekends in the Mid-Columbia May 4-5 with stage segments in Hood River County and on the backroads surrounding Dufur.

After two wintery Rally America National Championship rounds, 70 national and regional rally teams — the largest entry list this year — are ready for warmer temperatures and the fast sweeping stage roads of the Oregon Trail Rally.

The Championship has already seen early overall standings lead changes and new Super Production and Two-Wheel Drive category leaders emerge at the first two events. Now the Oregon Trail Rally will play an essential role as teams try to solidify their positions or close the gap to current points leaders.

Defending Rally America Champions, Subaru Rally Team USA’s David Higgins and Craig Drew, are back in familiar territory leading the national standings following their second-round rally in the 100 Acre Wood win last February. The Oregon Trail Rally comes at a good time for Higgins and Drew, who have won Oregon by at least three minutes the last few years, giving them a psychological edge over their opponents.

Right behind Higgins is Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard from the Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team. L’Estage and Richard began the season with a strong Sno*Drift Rally win, but lost the lead by not finishing the second round. The team is currently in the best position to retake the points lead if Higgins does not perform well at the Oregon Trail Rally. The Rockstar duo has never won the Oregon event and would love a win here to add even more pressure on the Subaru team.

Notably an all-out-attack is expected from Gymkhana viral video star and Hoonigan Racing’s Ken Block as he seeks to re-establish his Rally America title hopes. Block is a constant pressure to the other top contenders with his longtime co-driver, Alex Gelsomino, but the team experienced mechanical failures at the first events of the season that knocked them backwards in the standings.

In an unexpected move, Super Production (SP) Class leader Evan Cline from Brighton, Mich., is continuing his dream season at the Oregon Trail Rally. Cline was last year’s SP Class runner-up and was not expected to return to Rally America competition. However, Cline made an appearance at January’s Sno*Drift Rally and took first in class. He followed up his first SP Class podium with a second-place SP finish at the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood and now finds himself leading the SP Class standings by 14 points over fellow Michigan native, Mason Moyle.

However, the 2013 Oregon Trail Rally SP Class field has been made deeper with a number of Pacific Northwest teams entering the fray who have had success in the SP national ranks. Bend’s Byron Garth has placed well in his local events and nearly made the podium at the 2012 Olympus Rally, and David Henderson from Hood River took second place in class at last year’s Oregon event.

The Oregon Trail Rally is Rally America’s only three-day event and will begin Thursday, May 2, at 11 a.m. with a lunch hour driver meet and greet at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland.

The first competition day takes place on the tarmac and gravel roads of Portland International Raceway. It is the most spectator-friendly evening of racing with multiple viewing locations amidst a festival atmosphere. Gates open at 5 p.m.

For Saturday and Sunday, the Oregon Trail Rally moves to Hood River where fans can continue to watch the rally event in its natural gravel stage road environment. Spectator viewing areas, directions and schedule will be available via an online spectator guide soon. Be sure to check www.oregontrailrally.com for more information.

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