Friday, April 20, 2018


Portland, Oregon April 19, 2018; American Rally Championship [ARA]  opens with a bang this weekend as drivers set out to tackle round one the Oregon Trail Rally. 

Subaru Rally Team are expected to continue their dominance in American stage really, fielding two cars in the very capable hands David Higgins and Chris Atkinson, we are hoping for a good solid hard fought battle over the three day event, but its hard to think that team orders will not play a part in the final outcome, 

Subaru claims as always there are no team orders in place, I guess we will see. Although Subaru will field two cars throughout the championship Higgins and co driver Craig Drew are the only crew that will contend the entire series, so I would expect the team to want max points for their lead driver. The second car will be a shared drive in 2018 between Chris Atkinson, Travis Pastrana, and Patrick Sandell.

Chris Atkinson ‘aka” Atko and his long time co-driver Stéphane Prévot come in with a wealth of experience in stage Rally, the crew drove for Subaru World Rally Team between 2005 and 2008, resulting in multiple stage victory’s and several WRC podiums. In more resent times Chris has competed in the Global Rallycross Championship and also doing stints  in the Asia pacific championship.

 “Obviously when the team suggested it, I wasn't gonna say no to running OTR. It'll be great to do some rallies in the US and especially up in the Pacific Northwest region where there's such a huge Subaru fanbase. It's gonna be really cool.” 

I think its a given that we should expect to see both Subarus on the podium this weekend. 

Going up against an establishment like Vermont Sports Car and Subaru is no easy feat for a privateer, looking at the entry list I would have to think that privateer, Irish driver Barry McKenna, who’s based out of New York would get my bet for a podium finish. McKenna is coming into Oregon fresh off a 2nd place finish in the hotly contested  Moonraker Forest Rally in Ireland, just last weekend. Barry and co driver Leone Jordon now lead the 2018 Irish Forest  Rally Championship. Although Barry has completed in various forms of racing, drift, carts etc. this is only his second year in stage rally. Barry will again drive his Ford Fiesta in Oregon, with the support of Buckley Motorsport out of Ireland on the wrenches. 

Coming out of stage Rally hibernation for a select number of events in 2018, Ken Block has entered the rally in a 1991 Ford Escort Cosworth, yes, a 25 year old car, with a lot of 25 year old bits, well some new bits, Ken added a new Hoonigan handbrake grip, and some dampers. 

Back in the day this was a world championship winning machine, but compared to modern cars like the Subaru and McKenna’s Fiesta, the Cosworth would best be described as “lumpy” travel on the suspension is short, its requires to be driven on the cam, all the time which could make for some big Scandinavian set ups from Block. That said, it sure does make sweet music, the sound of the anti lag on this machine would waken the dead. 

Of all the rally’s in the Championship, I think Oregon Trails maybe the best opportunity to see the Cossie at its finest, the fast flowing wide open stages should suit this car, suspension travel is not so much of an issue.  Alex Gelsomino, Block’s long time co driver will have his work cut out for him keeping the HHIC in check,  should Ken find himself within a sniff of the podium he will be hard to contain.. 

As with any rally, so many factors can and will come into play, in the end its all speculation on my part, should Subaru really unleash  Higgins and Atkinson any number of drivers could find themselves in contention for the podium should the battle go a stray.  Cars get underway Friday at Portland Internation Raceway at 7:07pm with 4 Super Special stages, two tarmac and two gravel stages.