Images via American Rally Association
What’s going on in the American Rally Association as the series hits its halfway point of the 2018 season? Today, we take a look at this weekend’s New England Forest Rally:
What is this event?
The American Rally Association returns to action for the first time since the beginning of June with this weekend’s New England Forest Rally. NEFR is the fourth of seven rounds on the 2018 ARA calendar, and calls the Sunday River ski resort in Newry, Maine, its home base.
What’s the event route?
Stages are located in both Maine and New Hampshire, and total roughly 115 miles of rallying. Few changes have been made to previous years’ routes, with the exception of some added chicanes along the way. As always, the Concord Pond stage and its iconic jump will be a spectator favorite.
Travis Pastrana, fresh off his Evel Live triumph and a return to rallycross last weekend in Austin, finally returns to stage rally with Subaru Rally Team USA for the first time since taking the 2017 ARA title. Championship leaders David Higgins and Craig Drew return, as usual, in the other SRTUSA car. Each driver has won here three times.
Alongside them, a number of the most popular entries in the series return to action this weekend. One-time national points leaders Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski skipped the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally, but return to action in New England. So does Ken Block, whose Ford Escort Cosworth has been a popular vintage addition to ARA grids. Other top full-time drivers include Sam Albert, Travis Nease, and Barry McKenna.
Pastrana and Robbie Durant, technically, won this event in 2017. The real story, however, is a little more complex: during the rally, Durant complained of an injury suffered in the car and was removed from the seat in favor of Greg Dorman. The event stewards decided to grant Pastrana an exemption to continue competing in the event without suffering exclusion, and he took full advantage of the opportunity on the way to eventually claiming the series’ inaugural championship.
How about earlier this season?
The ARA season is three rounds in, but Higgins and Drew seem in many ways like a lock for the championship. They won the season-opening Oregon Trail Rally in April, and won again at STPR last month, offsetting their DNF at Olympus Rally. SRTUSA still won that event as longtime rallycross star Patrik Sandell and co-driver Per Almkvist triumphed, but the Swedish duo isn’t running for the championship.
Seehorn and Jankowski have been impressive with a pair of runner-up results in their two starts, but will need a third—plus, most likely, a DNF from Higgins—this weekend to reclaim the advantage. DirtFish Motorsports’ Albert and Michelle Miller are lurking close behind them, though; after a DNF of their own at OTR, they’ve taken podiums in the past two races to climb to third in the standings, just two points back of their Limited 4WD class rivals.
Where does the series go from here?
The Ojibwe Forests Rally, Idaho Rally, and return of Tour de Forest will close out the 2018 ARA season. Ojibwe takes place on August 25-26, Idaho takes place on September 15-16, and TdF runs on October 6-7. The latter event hasn’t been run since 1983, one of many former rallies to return in North America over the past couple of seasons.