When we hear “Oregon Trail,” many of us may be inclined to think about the video game of the same name, which took schools by storm in the 1980s. Young students shot squirrels for food, forded deep rivers, and felt (vicariously) the pain of disease and death.
The historical northwest trail’s fame spread far beyond the computer screen, however, and 1984 saw the staging of the first Oregon Trail Rally. This initial event was a one-off, one-day race event. Over a decade later in 1995, the newly formed Oregon Rally Group resurrected the event and kept its original name. The Oregon Trail Rally has been held nearly every year since, and Toyota is bringing its RAV4 SUV to the grueling three-day event in Portland this weekend.Off-road racer Ryan Millen and his fiancee Christina Fate (who takes the role of navigator) form the face of the Toyota-Millen RAV4 team, and they are taking on this year’s Oregon Trail. The team faced some challenges at the 100 Acre Wood rally, which was held March 18-19 in Missouri and was won by Travis Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom. With extensive modifications to its vehicle, and after a long rest, Millen’s team is aiming for the championship in Oregon.
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“I’m really proud of how this team has responded,” said Ryan Millen. “We worked a ton of hours and changed out almost everything. We’ve basically built a new car.”
Beyond re-engineering, Millen’s RAV4 has been put through its paces in preparation for the next event. Any weaknesses or signs of trouble can be identified, and the car itself benefits from the break-in period.
On her end, navigator Fate has kept a close eye on logistics and details relating to the vehicle, team, and race, tying up any loose ends. “We’re excited to get to the event to get a chance to redeem ourselves,” said Fate. “It’s exciting to get back in and move forward.”
A unique feature about the Oregon Trail event is its full tarmac stage. Teams are expected to adjust their vehicle’s settings to deal with and take advantage of the high levels of grip provided by a tarmac surface.
The Toyota-Millen RAV4 team is taking part in the 2WD class, and will face competition from brands like BMW, MINI, Volvo, Subaru, and Ford. “We’ll have our work cut out for us,” said Millen. “We’re still looking at the big picture. Championships are about putting points on the board, and we are ready for just that.”