When a Plan Comes Together
The New York Forest Rally is ready for its debut
Monticello, N.Y. ~Conger up the idea to have a rally and spend the next six weeks making it a reality. In the middle of a pandemic. Easier said than done, but that’s exactly how the New York Forest Rally was built.
The event organizing group brought some serious, ummm, horsepower to the table. Led by newly minted American Rally Association overall champion Barry McKenna and top rally co-driver Martin Brady, the New York Forest Rally was a put together with equal amounts of precision and passion, in an extremely short amount of time.
Many expected the first-time regional event to be a building block for the future, but it quickly turned into something more. Despite another competing rally event in the region, the NYFR looks to start 47 cars on Saturday, with a top of the field that is comparable to any national held by the ARA this season.
The top nine cars all sport a speed factor above 80 and include national namesakes like McKenna, Burke, Fetela, Booth and Brennan. But while there is plenty of speed to go around at the top, there are plenty of stories to be told beyond the front-runners.
Seven cars will take a shot at winning the RC2 class. Led by Ryan Booth and Co-Driver Nicholas Dobbs, who will sit in a new car in New York after getting the opportunity to run McKenna’s 2020 Skoda Fabia. The same car that won the Southern Ohio Forest rally in July and propelled McKenna to the overall title. Piotr Fetela missed the last national at the Show-Me Rally but will get some serious seat time, driving Dave Wallingford’s 2014 Ford Fiesta R5 (Wallingford is running in the O2WD class) for the first time.
Another one to watch is #165 of Ace Robey, who will rally alongside veteran co-driver Alex Gelsomino. Robey has experience rallying oversea, doing his first rally a year ago in France (Rally Antibes). With Robey coming from a circuit racing background, Gelsomino expects the slippery conditions brought about by the morning rain in New York to be a great building block for future rallies.
“The conditions during recce were a mix of grippy on the fast bits, and slippery and muddy on the slower, more technical parts of the stages,” said Gelsomino. “The weather is meant to improve, so we could only see the first runs of the stage with some inconsistent grip tomorrow. I think the conditions will suit the set-up of the R5 very well.
The rest of the field is full of ARA East Championship implications. Paul Ferreria will have his hands full in L4WD with the likes of Gary Donoghue, Dennis Romero and Con O’Sullivan. A strong finish in New York should give Ferreria control of the East title race. Overall, he will be looking to move into the top five, but will have to get past Greg Healey, who is one point ahead of Ferreria in fifth, but with the top four in points not running in New York, the championship is well within reach.
For Healey, he’s just excited to have the chance to rally so close to home: “We’re fortunate to be able to safely compete in a third event this season. We’re looking forward to a fun, competitive weekend.”
And the deep Open 2WD class will bring some big names and some old school iron to the party. Seamus Burke will be a front runner in the class, but his 1977 Ford Escort misses being the oldest car in competition by one year. That honor belongs to Michael Gillespie and his 1976 Escort. In all, 14 cars will line up in O2WD, making it the biggest class of the rally,
No matter how the cars finish on Saturday, the last minute opportunity to host another eventt in 2020 is more than enough for the rally community. Overall, New York has created a lot of buzz inside the paddock, especially amongst its competitors.
“Looking forward to start this event,” said Gelsomno. “Well done to the organizers and McKenna Motorsport for putting up a well sorted Rally in such short notice.”
The first car will leave service at 8:00 am on Saturday. The event is being timed by EZTrak and you can follow the stages on the ARA app, as well as the ARA and New York social media channels. Live stage results can be found on the ARA Event Scoring page.
Photo courtesy: McKenna Motorsports and Piotr Fetela