Oregon Rally Group was formed in 1995 by Portland area rallyists. Some with background in stage rally from abroad and some from racing in past years in the Puget Sound area. It was less than ten years since the Olympus Rally ran in western Washington as part of the World Rally Championship. Other founding members of ORG came from local TSD rally backgrounds with a love for aggressive forest rally action. With the help of our brethren up in the Olympia area, ORG set out to establish a base for rally activity around Oregon. A first event was to be a one day event on the northwest stage rally calendar. In honor of the first national stage rally in Oregon, ORG chose the name of the one-off, 1984 event, Oregon Trail Rally.
That original OTR was organized by the Portland and District Motor Club, with Nick Moore as the Rallymaster setting up stages run on the Publisher’s Paper forestlands east of Molalla (now Weyerhaeuser Molalla Tree Farm). The winner of that event was John Buffum in an Audi Quattro, with Rod Millen second in a special 4wd Mazda RX-7.
The resurrected Oregon Trail Rally organized by Oregon Rally Group came together quickly with Rick Beson securing use of Longview Fibre timberland forest roads around Vernonia. Many of today’s key organizers were present back then, with Rich Olmstead as chief of controls, Ben Bradley as Rallymaster, Mike Nagle as stage captain. Tim Paterson, Microsoft’s MS-DOS creator, won the 1995 event in his Mazda RX-7.
Nagle was president of ORG for the first five years, as the club set a five year goal of securing SCCA national series status. Nagle became the event’s regular rallymaster as he roamed northwest Oregon introducing ORG to numerous land managers and communities and authorities, resulting in events running out of Tillamook, Clatskanie, St. Helens, Hillsboro, and largely concentrated stage roads on Tillamook and Clatsop State Forest lands.
Due to severe spring flooding throughout the region, there was no chance for pulling together a rally event for 1996. But Vernonia was eager to have our return in 1997. Still a regional event, but becoming a respected event with entries coming from British Columbia and southern California. Paterson did a repeat win, that time in a Mazda 323GTX. Mazda continued its dominance in ’98 when Vance Walker (the only home grown Oregonian to win OTR) “strapped on” his diminutive yet high revving rotary RX-3 and flew breakneck through the forest. For ’97 and ’98 Oregon Trail Rally ran in June and was on the Portland Rose Festival events calendar along with CART indy cars and Rose Cup racing at Portland International Raceway.
Now a two day SCCA rally event run in April, 1999 and 2000 Oregon Trail Rally was won by Paul Choiniere, driving for his step-father (John Buffum) at Libra Racing. He drove 4wd modified Hyundai Elantra and Tiburon cars.
In 2001 Oregon Trail Rally was awarded national championship series status that it has maintained ever since. Drivers were now coming to OTR from England, Canada, Japan, and Europe. The event headquarters moved to Hillsboro with increased visibility at venues such as Washington County Fairgrounds, Hillsboro Stadium and McMenamins Roadhouse. Welsh resident, David Higgins won the 2001 rally, racing a Mitsubishi Evo for an independent out of Arizona. And the ’02 rally saw the Subaru Rally Team entry win the event with former British National Rally Champ, Mark Lovell setting out on Hwy 26 from the Hillsboro stadium start ramp to lead start to finish in the Salmonberry area of the Oregon State Forest.
2003 was the last year that Sports Car Club of America sanctioned stage rally racing, and that year Rally America was acting as the manager of the SCCA national series. OTR ran that year as a summer event to avoid road impact from spring snow melt and rain damage. But potential fire impact was a far worst concern for organizers and authorities. Canadian rally champion, Patrick Richard won the event in his Subaru.
Former world rally champion Stig Blomqvist came to America in 2004. His performance at Oregon Trail Rally was memorable. The rally returned to its springtime date, racing through the beautiful green foliage of Trask and Wilson River forest drainages. Stig made it look effortless! Through two thirds of the rally Pat Richard made a game of it, staying close to Blomqvist. But in truth Stig was just applying enough push on his car to maintain a lead. Near the end, Richard’s car broke and he had to retire. A great demonstration by a true champion!
With Rally America now sanctioning the stage rally competition in the US, Subaru Rally Team USA moved to the forefront of the rally scene with David Higgins as their driver. The native of the Isle of Man won his second Oregon Trail Rally in 2005.
In 2006, Rally America recognized Oregon Trail Rally as the Rally of the Year. The first of two such awards that Oregon Rally Group is proud of was one of the best held in the Oregon State Forest lands of northwest Oregon. The second Rally of the year award came in 2009, run in the shadow of majestic Mt. Hood on the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.
Australian Andrew Pinker entered the scene in 2006 and showed his ability to master the highly crowned contour of the all-weather gravel forest roads. To avoid the off camber of the outside of the corner, driver’s effective road width was very narrow. Many a driver sought out Pinker’s advice to this challenge as his stage times won him OTR championships in both 2006 and 2007.
Another new entrant coming on the rally scene, well known “two wheeler” Travis Pastrana joined Subaru Rally Team USA, who brought in veteran co-driver, Derrick Ringer to bring Travis up to speed behind the wheel of a top flight rally machine. Travis won the 2008 edition of OTR. For 2009 Pastrana won Oregon Trail again, this time for the first time with his long-time navigator, Christian Edstrom.
Rally’s exposure to the US motorsports public was reaching a higher level. Pastrana and Edstrom were featured on their own video games. Television production of rally events was gaining more viewers. New names were coming to the sport, like Ken Block, Tanner Foust and ACP. Oregon Trail organizers made a move to offer a spectator specific offering creating the only 3 day rally event on the rally calendar in the United States when they held a Friday evening kickoff of the rally with 4 mini-stages at Portland International Raceway.
After finishing second in 2009 Canadian Andrew Comrie-Picard (ACP) drove his Mitsubishi Evo IX to a win of the 2010 Oregon Trail held in Hood River County.
Go to the volunteers page today, and register on RALLYDATA.com to be a part of the event.