After a year off in 2020, the stages of New England Forest Rally were recce’d for the first time in about two years on Wednesday, in preparation for this weekend’s American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National round.
The famed roads are showing their age with many ruts, ditches, rocks, and other imperfections ready to cause problems for drivers.
High-speed and dangerous road-side obstacles are constants throughout, but each stage has its own challenges to offer. Here’s what DirtFish was able to learn on recce on Thursday.
SS1/2 Concord Pond (5.37 miles) The famous Concord Pond is not only the first stage, but also the most anticipated. Constantly compared to the roads of the World Rally Championship’s Rally Finland, Concord Pond is five miles of blind crests, blind curves, and the biggest jumps the US has to offer. Spectators will be crammed into the woods to see their favorite drivers soar through the air. The stage is very wide and forgiving so long as you can stay on the road and out of the overgrown ditches; who knows what they could be hiding.
SS3 South Arm (9.65 miles) The Friday afternoon loop starts off right next to beautiful Lower Richardson Lake. This stage eases teams into the main threat they’ll face this weekend: rocks.
Large, sharp rocks stick up out of the road in many areas of this stage. Thankfully, someone went through and painted serious threats in florescent orange and pink, but the danger still remains, and with the high speeds drivers will be hitting there’s not much time for reaction regardless.
SS4 Beaver Pond (5.25 miles)
The penultimate Friday stage is the roughest yet. The large rocks jutting out aren’t necessarily as much of a threat this time as the golf ball-sized gravel is sharp enough to puncture the tires of any unlucky drivers. The stage lacks the big crests of the prior two, but still has easy hills mixed with a few odd kicker-style bumps that could easily cause problems.
SS5 Icicle Brook (16.06 miles)
This one takes drivers back down a good amount of SS3 in reverse direction. About halfway through, however, you take a different turn at a junction for a six-mile detour through the deep woods before returning to the original SS3 route a bit down the road to finish.
SS6 Sturtevant Short (6.88 miles) First of all, DirtFish can say from experience that a greater vehicle than a 2021 Kia Forte is required to effectively access the start of this stage. The transit to Sturtevant Short alone is a serious hazard, the road being completely overcrowded with large, sharp rocks that competitors will be bottoming out on at low speeds as they try to navigate what looks more like an ATV trail than a transit road.
The stage itself is, thankfully, quite a bit smoother. The constant threat of scattered stones and unforgiving off-road dangers remains, but overall it’s not too bad, and offers a good amount of speed.
SS7/11 Wilson Mills (6.01 miles) Wilson Mills is a bit of a climb compared to other stages, ascending almost 600ft in six miles, though not too bad for the area. It offers great flowing corners and plenty of linked bends all to be taken at high speed. The nice and wide two-lane road really gives you room to open up as well as you dance back and forth across the Maine-New Hampshire border. Florescent paint highlights some large hidden boulders, which are easily able to ruin the car of any driver who gets too mesmerized by the flowing curves.
SS8/12 Aziscohos (11.94 miles) Aziscohos is the most technical stage of the rally. Nothing close to what we saw at Ohio last time out, but certainly more than anything so far on the NEFR. It starts and ends pretty fast, but overall has the sharpest turns and trickiest corners of the weekend.
It’s also a deceiving stage, with a high risk of hitting deer at some of its fastest points, and one fast section that leads directly into a totally blind tight left then directly into a tight one-lane bridge that was a bit questionable even at recce speeds.
SS9/13 Morton Cutoff (3.17 miles) At just 3.5 miles, Morton Cutoff is a nice, quick little stage. Though it offers the only hairpin of the rally, it’s far smoother, wider, and faster than the previous Aziscohos, and serves as a nice respite before heading back to service.
SS10 Sturtevant Long (13.41 miles) Utilizing all of Sturtevant Short save for one turn, the long variant adds seven miles of thin, overgrown roads. Only being run once, this stage is certainly a car killer. It’s tight, has some of the worst rocks, and ditches running across the whole road that sneak up on you at points. Drivers with cheap suspension will be feeling this stage all next week.
SS14 North Road (3.80 miles) This short four-miler is being run just one time as a final push for the rally. Any tight battles will be settled here, as this high-speed, low-danger stage allows drivers to open up for that last 10%. Low danger doesn’t mean no danger, however, and the road is still somewhat tight with many puncture risks.