Although it’s not required to have a deep appreciation for cars to work at for a dealership group like Morrie’s, a lot of us are absolutely fanatical about cars. While some of us diligently wash and wax our favorite cars before a car show or enjoy a serene cruise around town, we have some serious motorheads amongst our ranks who can only satiate their need for speed at the race track. Perhaps the most die-hard of them all are the rally enthusiasts, most typically found at our Minnetonka Subaru store. Scott Putnam, the fleet sales manager at Morrie’s Minnetonka Subaru invited us out to Michigan earlier this year to watch his team, CPD Racing, as they tackled a number of snow and ice-covered rural roads in their Subaru WRX STI during the first round of Rally America’s 2016 championship. A few weeks later, they were in Salem, MO for the 100 Acre Wood Rally. Scott invited us back to follow the team around the hills outside Portland, OR this past weekend during the Oregon Trail Rally, the 3rd round of the 2016 Rally America series.
The Oregon Trail Rally is an incredibly challenging and grueling three day event that follows the narrow fire roads that flank the Columbia River. While the scenery is absolutely breathtaking, these roads often feature blinding dust, slippery rocks, and sheer rock faces inches from the edge of the road. It’s a harrowing drive for your average driver, even more so while carrying triple digit speeds, sideways, while choking on the dust of the car you’re chasing down for a spot on the podium. Instead of CPD’s usual ace driver, Lauchlin O’Sullivan, Road & Track Magazine sent in contributing editor Jason Harper to mix it up in the dirt for an upcoming article.
The first day comprised of a few stage laps around Portland International Raceway with some added jumps to spice things up. You know, because rally. The turnout was great with lots of spectators lining the track well into the night. Jason and Scott kept things tidy and made up a few spots on the grid during the four stages held at the circuit.
The following morning, we headed into the hillside on the northern side of the Columbia River in Washington where Jason and Scott would be tackling a mix of windmill-lined gravel roads before ending on the private Maryhill Loop hillclimb stage for stages 11 and 12. The ominous silhouette of Mount Rainier always looming in the background, setting the stage for a clash of titans of the dirt. Maryhill Loop would cap off the day with an epic serpentine bit of tarmac that wound its way back and forth up the hillside of a private piece of land. Typically, this narrow two-lane road is used for downhill longboarding competitions and filming car commercials where a closed road is needed. For us however, it was an all-out, full-speed assault to the top.
For the final day, Jason and Scott went back across the river towards Dufur, OR to race through a mix of picturesque vineyards and silty hillsides. When all was said and done, CPD Racing didn’t make a podium spot but Jason was ecstatic each time he climbed out of the car. He drove cleanly and brought the car back in one piece. Mighty impressive for a novice rally driver, given the treacherous terrain and unforgiving conditions. We’re looking forward to checking back with the team in a few short weeks for the Mount Olympus hillclimb!