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Speed freaks


In the Tabor family, racing is passed down from generation to generation

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Tigard's Kristen Tabor and her mother Janice are a mother-daughter racing team that have found a niche in an often male-dominated sport.Wearing a pair of aviator sunglasses, Kristen Tabor jumps behind the wheel of her Subaru rally car on a recent 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: Don’t 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 men’s sport,” Jan said. “There was a time when they didn’t 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, we’ll stop.”

Kristen said she couldn’t 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, Kristen’s father.

“It’s 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. It’s not typical.”

Kristen is the team’s driver, but Jan is the real boss of the car, Kristen said. “She tells me what I’m 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.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Tigard resident Kristen Tabor drives her rally car in the hills of West Linn.

“I have to keep pace to how fast she’s going,” Jan said. “If she speeds up, I need to read faster.”

It’s important to have co-drivers in rally, Kristen said. Otherwise accidents can happen.

“Drivers have the IQ of goldfish,” she joked. “I can’t remember anything.”

Family bonding

Off the track, Kristen is a firm manager and senior payroll specialist at Tabor Accounting Group, her family’s accounting agency in Durham.

“We aren’t really your typical accountants. We are much more fun,” Kristen said. “We don’t really wear ties.”

Racing is a family hobby. Bruce’s father introduced him to the sport years ago, and he shared it with his children.

“It is definitely a family sport,” Kristen said. “And it’s not just my family. My brothers bring their kids and wives. We’ve 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 driver’s seat.

“We haven’t been able to get her out of the seat since then,” Bruce said.

It’s 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 can’t get enough of the sport.

“It’s a challenge,” she said. “How far can you push yourself and how well can you do it without doing it badly and crashing?”

Plus, it’s 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 it’s like, ‘Yeah. That’s 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 month’s Oregon Trail Rally that the Tabor’s competed in.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jan Tabor and her daughter, Kristen, are a mother-daughter team who race in rally events.