The first time I went to the New England Forest Rally, It wasn’t even called that, it was the Maine Forest Rally.
The year was 1999. My friend Brian Mills and I were headed to the rally we had heard so much about. We were hooked ever since watching WRC footage on Speedvision along with old Group B rally videos on YouTube. My favorite car has always been, the Audi S1. More on that later.
We had a general idea of where we were going, but nothing concrete. We knew we were getting close once we started to see cars of a different kind of “character” for this area. You’re in a location that the pick-up and basic sedan is the norm and you come across many modified BMW’s, Subaru’s and a lot of Audis , well you pick up on that sort of thing. Anyway, we started to follow these other likeminded individuals, racing from town to town where we eventually found the race cars.
I can still remember the excitement of it all. Our heads were on a swivel, looking every direction. Rally cars and their crews were scattered amongst the various hotels and B&B’s in the area. We had no idea what time the rally was to begin. That’s when we saw the rally cars start to line up and we decided to follow them and their crews to the first stage. 1999 was the year that World Rally Champion, Stig Blomqvist, drove the late Carl Merrill’s Ford Escort Cosworth. We were oblivious to the fact that Stig had raced for Audi and it wasn’t until later in life we realized how special it was to witness him racing in our own backyard.
We made it to the stage and parked. Now Brian and I were hoofing it to find a good spot to take photos and watch the race. After walking for sometime we could hear a symphony of explosions and hellfire in the distance behind us near the start. Not long after that we heard people yelling “CAR!!!” We scrambled to safety on the inside corner with a hefty drop off with nothing between us and the incoming car but a few sizable pine trees. My heart was racing in anticipation of the car as it quickly closed the gap. It was the AWD Hyundai Tiburon, driven by Paul Choiniere. He danced by sideways, belching fire and ripping at the road surface in vain trying to find purchase. He made it around the bend (and us) safely. Leaving nothing in his wake except for a huge dust plume and some loose gravel. We had grins from ear to ear. Rally had her hooks in us and we weren’t fighting it.
Some 15 years later, my adrenaline still pumps and my heart races in anticipation of that first car. And I love every second of it. It puts my senses on edge like a knife to a honing stone.
New England Forest Rally – 2014
Rally is lost on most of the American public. It is motorsports’ best kept secret, at least in the States. These racers don’t drive in a circle. They don’t cancel if it rains. It doesn’t matter to the driver if it’s gravel, pavement, off camber turns, jumps, dips, snow, ice, rain or mud. They are going to drive on it or through it, as fast as they can for as long as they can.
The prevalence of this mind set becomes more apparent with the coming stages at the New England Forest Rally. Cars were crashing and with the dirt terrain and quick turns, many missed and ended up rolling on their side. I even had Brian McNamara break down in front of me on a stage after his rear end literally broke and was dragging on the ground. Prior to this, the car had been on its side due to an accident earlier, where he was pushed back over and continued on. Consequences be damned.
The people that do happen to stumble upon Rally tend to cling on for life though. It’s addictive. Jumps, sideways action with huge sprays of dirt and debris. I’m still picking out random pebbles from my hair, days after it’s over. This year was especially dusty. But it’s all part of the attraction. Up close and personal. It interacts with all of your senses.
I was lucky enough to catch a ride with Andrew Comrie-Picard, or ACP. The ride-along was on the shakedown stage, the evening prior to the first race day. I had originally secured a ride with another team but the opportunity fell through due to mechanical problems. Graciously, one of the staff members asked ACP if he would be willing to give me a ride. He happily said yes. Here is the video that follows.
ACP is a great guy and an even better driver. He’s fast and very smooth. At speed, you wouldn’t know that the 2014 Ford Fiesta ST was FWD the way he was swinging the rear end out on corners. It’s no wonder why he and co-driver Ole Holter went on to secure first place in the 2WD division. Thanks again ACP. It was a blast!
All in all, another great year. David Higgins secured first place and Travis Pastrana with a very close second. Followed by FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman in Third. Thanks to Mike White for shuttling us around in the Van of Doom. You and your knowledge were invaluable. Thanks to Ananda from Rally America for making this happen. Lastly, I would like to thank Chris, Marsha and everyone else at My Life at Speed.
For full race results, please follow the link http://www.rally-america.com/events/2014/NEFR/results
Below you will find a nice array of photos from this year’s New England Forest Rally. I hope you enjoy them.