Tigard woman comes from a family of speed freaks
In the Tabor family, racing is passed down from generation to generation.
Wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses, Kristen Tabor jumps behind the wheel of her Subaru rally car on Tuesday afternoon for a quick jaunt around her parents West Linn neighborhood.
The car is bare bones. Metal in the back is visable beneath a large roll cage to protect her in case of a crash. A sticker on her steering wheel offers her the only piece of advice she needs: Dont slow down.
The car has become a second home to Tabor, 41, of Tigard, who has been racing at rallies across the Northwest since the 1990s.
But Tabor is only one half of a two-person race team. The passenger seat in the stripped-down race car is usually occupied by her co-driver, and mother, 66-year-old Jan Tabor.
The pair makes an unlikely team in a sport often dominated by men. At the Oregon Trail Rally held in April, Jan was the oldest competitor, and Kristen was the only female driver in their class.
It is definitely a mens sport, Jan said. There was a time when they didnt take us seriously. When we started beating people, they started taking us seriously.
After more than a decade of racing together, Kristen and Jan have no plans to slow down.
We have a deal, Kristen said. When it stops being fun, well stop.
Kristen said she couldnt compete without her mother.
I need her, she said. I need her in the car and to be focused. If we are having a bad day, you let those feelings go and move on and do it better next time.
The team has formed a close bond as driving partners, said Bruce Tabor, Kristens father.
Its amazing that they have had so much fun riding together, and they work so well together, he said. When you think of the mother-daughter dynamic, this is something different. Its not typical.
Kristen is the teams driver, but Jan is the real boss of the car, Kristen said. She tells me what Im supposed to do, when to do it and where I am supposed to go.
Every turn of the course is written in a large book that Jan deciphers as Kristen drives, describing the severity of each turn as well as other possible dangers, such as jumps and water features.
I have to keep pace to how fast shes going, Jan said. If she speeds up, I need to read faster.
Its important to have co-drivers in rally, Kristen said. Otherwise accidents can happen.
Drivers have the IQ of goldfish, she joked. I cant remember anything.
What is rally car racing?
Rally drivers compete on gravel roads, often in rural areas. Co-drivers shout out directions as drivers work to keep their cars on the road through the long and challenging courses.
You basically are racing against the clock, Kristen Tabor said. I like to think that Im racing against myself.
Cars take off every minute as they race to the finish line in the fastest time.
I dont like track racing, Kristen said. If I wanted to race in traffic, Id drive down the freeway. I love rally because its just me and mom alone in a car, and theres another car a minute away.
Rally is one of the most popular motor sports in the world, Bruce Tabor said, but the sport has never caught on with mainstream America.
Its held all over the world, but the problem in America is that its not a spectator sport, he said. If you want to see it, you have to climb through the woods and put up with the weather. You cant sit in a comfy seat and order a hot dog and a beer.
Interested in the sport? Bruce said the best way to get involved is to volunteer at a local rally.
Youll be able to see everything that way, he said.
Off the track, Kristen is a firm manager and senior payroll specialist at Tabor Accounting Group, her familys accounting agency in Durham.
We arent really your typical accountants. We are much more fun, Kristen said. We dont really wear ties.
Racing is a family hobby. Bruces father introduced him to the sport years ago, and he shared it with his children.
It is definitely a family sport, Kristen said. And its not just my family. My brothers bring their kids and wives. Weve made a lot of friends in this who are as close as family.
The pair competes in a handful of rallies each year in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Part of the draw for people like us is the unknown, Jan said. You are out there on unknown roads, and the challenge is how fast you can make it on a road you have never been on before.
The Tabors are well known in local rally circles. Kristen served as past president of the Oregon Rally Group and currently serves as its stage rally director.
Racing is in their blood, Jan added.
Our grandkids will probably learn to drive at Rallycross, she said.
Kristen began her racing career serving as co-driver to her brothers and swiftly found herself in the drivers seat.
We havent been able to get her out of the seat since then, Bruce said.
Its a dangerous sport, to be sure. Motor sports are a risky endeavor, Kristen said. You are going to crash. You will.
There are two kinds of people in rally driving, Kristen added. Those who have rolled their cars, and those who will.
Kristen rolled her car in her very first race with her mother.
At a recent rally, a car caught fire, injuring the driver and co-driver before they could get out.
Three rally drivers have died in crashes in the past two decades, Bruce said.
That is a rarity, but it does happen, Jan said. You know going into it that it is a possibility.
Despite the risks, Kristen said she cant get enough of the sport.
Its a challenge, she said. How far can you push yourself and how well can you do it without doing it badly and crashing?
Plus, its a great way to blow off steam, Kristen said.
The first rally always starts right at the end of tax season, and I am just brain dead, she said. But, you get into the car, and you do the first stage of a rally, and its like, Yeah. Thats exactly what I needed, right there.
The Tabors will next compete in the 2014 Olympus Rally held May 30 to June 1 in Shelton, Wash.
On Sunday, June 1, NBC Sports Network is showing coverage of last months Oregon Trail Rally that the Tabors competed in.Add a comment