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Rally race returns

Weekend race in Hood River, Wasco counties

The 2013 Rally America National Championship comes to the Gorge May 3-5 in the annual Oregon Trail Rally stage of the racing series. The third of seven national championship contests, the OTR brings several dozen cars and teams to Portland the first day and the gravel roads of Hood River and Wasco Counties the second and third days to test their skills and vie for points in the national race series.

Gorge residents should be aware that some road closures will be in effect during due to the event (see info box with this story).

Known as the most scenic and diverse stage of the season, this is the sixth year the rally comes to the Gorge to put drivers and supped-up vehicles to the test on the rocky, narrow and hairpin Middle Mountain and Fir Mountain areas May 4 and the more open and speed-friendly back roads outside Dufur May 5. The series includes 17 timed stages overall and opens May 3 with the first stages at Portland International Raceway.

County road closures

May 4: Parts of Fir Mountain and Huskey roads; through traffic on Elder Rd.; County Roads 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 and 8,000 (lower reaches of these will be open to local residences).

May 5 closures will apply to some Wasco County roads near the race.

More than 70 teams are signed up to compete in the Oregon Trail Rally, making it the largest assembly of rally cars in the nation this year. The event is also the kick-off event for the Northwest Regional Rally Championship as over 45 local teams vie for Championship honors.

An expose Saturday morning at the Hood River County Fairgrounds in Odell will give spectators and race fans an opportunity check out cars, meet drivers and get a glimpse at life on a national racing circuit. Spectators are invited to watch the action from a designated viewing area setup at a strategic corner about five miles up Fir Mountain Road outside of Pine Grove. From a designated parking area, a shuttle ($5 per person) will transport spectators to the viewing area, where cars will pass by at high speeds during two stages of the race (cars are scheduled to start those stages at 11:16 a.m. and 2:37 p.m.).

With tight corners, rugged roads and little room for error, the May 4 states took out eight national entrants last year. This season’s current points leader, Subaru Rally Team’s David Higgins, looks to repeat last year’s victory of the OTR after winning the Sno Drift and 100 Acre Wood rallies in Michigan and Missouri earlier this year.

The day’s racing will conclude on the streets of downtown Hood River with a car display and block party at Double Mountain Brewery from 7-9 p.m.

May 5 racing and spectating will be based out of downtown Dufur. An expose that morning will take place on Main Street in the small town before drivers make their way to the first of five stages on the day. A spectator area off of Hwy. 197 about two miles north of Dufur will give fans an up-close view of the action on a tight 90-degree corner. Stages for that viewing area will run at 11:18 a.m. and 1:24 p.m.

For more information and more specific spectator directions, visit www.oregontrailrally.com.

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