A few weekends ago I attended my first rally- the New England Forest Rally up in Newry, Maine. Thanks to a friend and my Fiancee, I was able to get a lift from Vermont to Maine, and a seat on the VIP bus for the weekend. I almost didn’t even make it to the race- the day before we were scheduled to leave, my Fiancee and I realized we had misunderstood each other when discussing ride arrangements to Maine. With less than 24 hours to figure out a ride (my truck is down for repairs, and 8mpg doesn’t exactly bode well for road trips), we were able to scramble and figure something out at the last minute.
If you know me personally, you know I spent some time working for the graphics company responsible for doing all the vinyl and decal work on the Subaru Rally Team (SRT) cars out of Vermont SportsCar– specifically the cars of David Higgins/Craig Drew, Travis Pastrana/Christian Edstrom, and Bucky Lasek/Rhianon Gelsomino. With Vermont SportsCar being based in Colchester, Vermont, where I shoot sports for the local newspaper, getting out to a rally to see these cars in action was two-fold; getting to see my vinyl work firsthand on the course, and getting some action photos for the hometown paper.
(Below, David Higgins and Craig Drew slide through a corner on Stage 2. Photo for The Colchester Sun)
Being my first rally, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had a general idea, but for the most part I was lost. Thankfully a friend (Thanks again, Kevin!) has been multiple times and was able to provide some insight for me. In addition, the VIP bus made it super easy to enjoy the rally without having to worry about driving myself to the various stages, or having to worry about road closures and directions. I am notoriously horrible with directions, so that was definitely a plus; otherwise I’d probably still be lost up in Maine somewhere. Catered food, drinks, and rally experts on-board to answer any of our questions throughout the weekend, VIP is the way to go. Not to mention getting to see extra stages that were not open to the general public this year.
(Below, can’t beat catered food out on the stages, thanks to the VIP bus!)
Once arriving at Sunday River, the first thing that stood out to me was how accessible the drivers/co-drivers and their teams were to the fans. Coming from spending the majority of my time covering hockey and other sporting events where the athletes generally go out onto the ice or field, play, then leave said ice/field, with little to no interaction with the fans, this was quite the different atmosphere. Drivers and Co-drivers were, for the most part, readily available to meet and chat with fans, and sign some autographs in the process. Some unfortunate events on the second day even allowed for one team to join the VIP bus for lunch.
(Below, The Smith² Rally Team, left side of photo, talking the spectators through their rollover on SS6)
(Below, Bucky Lasek chatting prior to the start of the rally, and David Higgins hidden in the background)
(Below, the #60 Evo 8 driven by Gary Donoghue and Co-driver Andrew Browne making some last minute adjustments before the start.)
When we were heading out to the first stage, everyone was given a bandana. Being a first-time rally go-er, I was a little confused as to what it was for at first. Once that first car raced past though, their purpose became very clear. My sinuses are still recovering, and thankfully I thought to bring my Rocket Blower (A little bulb-type tool for blowing dust off camera equipment) which helped keep my camera gear relatively dust free throughout the weekend.
(Rally car dust storm)
(Below, The cars racing past only a matter of feet from where you’re standing, sometimes sideways, is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.)
At the end of the final stage Saturday, we all loaded back up into the VIP bus and headed back to Sunday River, arriving shortly after the awards ceremony started.
(Below, champagne spray for the 2wd Podium finishers)
Which was then followed by a wedding. Yes, a wedding. A first for a post-rally celebration, I believe!
Finally, to wrap it all up, we were able to enjoy a BBQ and one final chance to mingle and talk with the drivers/co-drivers. I’m currently kicking myself for not getting any autographs- I was too busy taking photos. However my plan is to print out some of the better photos I took this year, and return next year to have the drivers/co-drivers sign them.
Overall, the weekend was a blast. I have to thank Kevin O. and my Fiancee once again for helping get me to Maine in the first place, otherwise I wouldn’t have any of these photos to share with you all. Also, a big thank you to everyone involved with the VIP bus and associated vendors/caterers, it made my first rally experience extremely enjoyable and stress-free. Being able to experience the cars racing past you at about 5-10 feet is an exhilarating feeling, it certainly gets the adrenaline flowing that’s for sure. I am already looking forward to next year in hopes of being able to attend again, as well as seeing what I can do about attending other races this year. NEFR got me hooked on rally!
For full image galleries, head over to the “Portfolio” section of the website, or my Facebook page. Photos from SS7 and SS10 are still being added to the gallery as of this writing.