Dozens of top rally drivers and co-drivers will descend upon Portland International Raceway on Friday for the start of the 2018 American Rally Association season, as the Oregon Trail Rally returns to the schedule as ARA’s new season opener. With defending overall winner Travis Pastrana missing the event, Oregon will see a different winner behind the wheel this year. (But maybe not a different co-driver: Robbie Durant is back, this time partnered with Conner Martell.)
In case you haven’t seen an entry list yet, or maybe you’re paying attention to stage rally for the first time, here are some of the names you can expect to contend for the overall podium this weekend:
#75 David Higgins/Craig Drew :: Open 4WD :: 2018 Subaru WRX STI
Dominant as Higgins and Drew have been in United States rallying over the past decade, the Subaru Rally Team USA duo finished second in ARA points in 2017. There’s no doubt that they see 2018 as their year, as they look to do one spot better in both the overall standings and at this event. (They finished 10.5 seconds off of the win last year.)
#55 Chris Atkinson/Stephane Prevot :: Open 4WD :: 2018 Subaru WRX STI
Now a consistent podium threat in rallycross, Atkinson returns to his roots with Subaru Rally Team USA this weekend as he competes in his first stage rally in the United States. Since joining SRTUSA in 2016, the former Subaru World Rally Team driver has found himself right at home with the brand’s passionate American fanbase. How quickly will he shake off the rallying rust?
#21 Conner Martell/Robbie Durant :: Open 4WD :: 2017 Subaru Crosstrek
After spending multiple years transitioning from motocross to rallycross, and winning a number of races along the way, Martell has developed a taste for stage rally and posted some impressive times in Canada. Borrowing Robbie Durant, Pastrana’s regular co-driver, for the weekend, there’s a good chance that the duo challenge for an overall podium.
#97 Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan :: Open 4WD :: 2009 Ford Fiesta
Now in his second year in the turbo Ford Fiesta S2000, McKenna will be looking to make up for a DNF last year after posting decent early stage times. A podium finish at Olympus Rally last May proved that the duo has what it takes to take the fight to the leading Subarus, and it’ll take more of that form this weekend to come home with hardware.
#56 Jeff Seehorn/Karen Jankowski :: Limited 4WD :: 2015 Subaru WRX STI
Last year’s Restricted Open 4WD champion, Seehorn took his first of four class victories—but more impressively, first of four overall podiums—in Oregon last year. A true out-of-nowhere success story, Seehorn’s impressive pace as a regional driver led him to make the jump to national competition last year, and he’s been right at home ever since.
#457 Sam Albert/Michelle Miller :: Limited 4WD :: 2015 Subaru WRX STI
Driving the same car that James Rimmer campaigned here last year in Restricted Open 4WD, Albert kicks off his first full national season for DirtFish Motorsports in the only ARA event that he hasn’t yet run. After showing solid pace before facing mechanical issues in two rallies last year, Albert will look to prove that he’s a championship threat in Limited 4WD.
#43 Ken Block/Alessandro Gelsomino :: Open 4WD :: 1993 Ford Escort Cosworth
Surprise! The #BlockEscortCossie makes its debut in stage rally with its new owner in Oregon, as the Gymkhana star and winner of 22 combined rally and rallycross races in North America reunites with Alex Gelsomino at one of his favorite events. While Block has never actually won in Oregon, he placed second in both 2007 and in his most recent attempt in 2013.