What you need to know about NEFR 2022
There’s no denying the 2021 running of the New England Forest Rally had some massive hype behind it. We had the usual players, but joining the field was young desert truck star Jax Redline, Irish rally star Marty McCormack, seven RC2 competitors and, of course, David Higgins.
This year all the special appearances are gone, and if anything a few more series regulars than normal are taking a dropped round for NEFR, but that doesn’t mean a lack of action or excitement.
There’s a tight battle for the top of the championship between Subaru and Hoonigan, some exciting class battles, and a whole Regional Rally to watch as we tackle some of the fastest stages in the US.
Here’s what you need to know about the 2022 New England Forest Rally.
The National entry will consist of 22 cars this time around, the fastest of which are expected to be Travis Pastrana and Brandon Semenuk of Subaru Motorsports USA, and Ken Block of Hoonigan. The three are tied up in a close battle that sees any one of them potentially leading the championship by the end of Saturday. With just eight points separating the three, the trio will be pushing each other as fast as possible.
Also in the O4WD class will be Martin Donnelly with a Fiesta R5 with modifications to push it into a higher caliber, as well as a pair of Rally3 Fiestas piloted by Lucy Block and Liam McNelis. Myron Georgakopoulos will also be in the mix in his 2002 WRX.
In the LN4 class, Dylan Murcott will be happy to take back his points lead as current leader Phil Wearn will be absent for this event. After retiring less than a mile into Southern Ohio Forest Rally, Murcott looked to have to play catch up, but will instead find himself a step up assuming all goes well this weekend.
That doesn’t mean Murcott will have an easy weekend though as Klim Fedoff is in prime position to take the top spot on the podium in a classic WRX vs Evo battle, and the lone NA4WD competitor, and last year’s class winner Arek Bialobrzeski, could easily take some of those points from Murcott.
Promising Canadian rallyist Vincent Trudel will be making a US debut as well, and looks to play spoiler to all three, while, as always, Chris Sladek in the Honda HPD Rally Passport is there to remain consistent and reliable, while going right over all the road hazards lower cars might suffer damage on.
For 2WD, a great battle is shaping between rookies, up-and-comers, and seasoned veterans. Seamus Burke and Michael Hooper lead the charge in the Mustang V6-powered Ford Escort and the Lexus IS350 respectively, but a fleet of Fiestas piloted by Cam Steely, and Cian McComack look to represent the FF drivetrain against the more unique builds of Burke and Hooper.
Erik Potts and Tim O’Neil will also be joining the 2WD field, while the only cars looking to score points in the L2WD cup will be the Fiesta of Nick Allen, and the 2007 Yaris of Tracey Gardiner.
The NA4WD GC Impreza of Dylan Gondyke is a favorite to take the lead in the Eastern Championship. He’ll be leading the charge of the regional competitors with TJ Pullen, also in an NA4WD GC expected to be super close competition. The H6 swapped 2007 Impreza of Andrew Benson also threatens to shine in the NA class.
John Cassidy is the favorite to win the O4WD class, with over 30 starts in the Maine and New England Forest Rally, very few people have as much experience here as Cassidy, but class competitors Robert Sockalexis and Tyler Saunders will be looking to take the top spot on the podium as well.
Waylan Lacey and Tony Gearhart are both expected to finish well in the L4WD class, but both have a field of Subarus and a single Mitsubishi Galant VR4 driven by Peter Rizzo to overcome. In that field is also Frog Racing’s Emanuel Checchet and his FrogSTiR, along with his wife Margaret Sharron, the fastest woman ever in the Climb to the Clouds Mt. Washington Hillclimb, driving her PrincesSTi.
With 23 two-wheel-drive Regional competitors, there’s too much to go into detail over each team, but there’s certainly some highlights in the field.
Dan Downey and his classic BMW 325i return for the O2WD competition after a last stage off ruined a strong rally at Southern Ohio. Looking to take him down is fellow BMW driver Alexey Kuklov, while Derek James’ Fiesta and Anthony Burden’s Jetta look to take top spot as well.
In L2WD James Whitsell returns for the first time since 2018, this time in a 2006 VW Rabbit. The ’97 VW Golf of Luke Horrocks looks to have a tight battle, while the Saab 900 of Michael white attempts to throw its hat in the ring as well.
The 2022 New England Forest Rally consists of 112 stage miles and 404 transit miles across two days. The rally begins with a parc exposé at the Sunday River Resort, followed by two running’s of the amazing Concord Pond stage back to back, where some of the greatest crest jumps in America are enjoyed by the field of competitors.
From there, a regroup and service back at Sunday River prepares the cars for one more loop of three stages, making a day one total of just over 40 miles, leaving the other 70+ for Saturday.
Saturday starts early with a 7am parc exposé, with cars departing at 8am. Five stages make up the first loop, including some of the harshest ones of the whole weekend, such as Aziscohos and Sturtevant (Short). A mid-day service in Errol, New Hampshire repreps cars for more of the same abuse in the second loop of the day.
After SS14, Morton Cutoff 2, one more 30-minute service in Errol will prep cars for a final 3.80-mile stage on their way back to Sunday River, for podiums, partying, and most importantly, dinner.