NEWRY, ME — One of the most spectacular seasons in Rally America Championship history came to an end at the New England Forest Rally with Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard atop of the NEFR podium for the second consecutive year. The privateer Rockstar Rally Team took the lead from the start and held it for the entire duration of the event, winning eight of the eleven special stages. L’Estage finished 48 seconds ahead of Subaru Rally Team USA driver David Higgins.
Higgins and co-driver Craig Drew focused on getting to the finish having to place fourth or better here to secure the National Championship win. Higgins faced overheating issues on Day 1 and fuel pressure issues on Day 2, but eventually finished second overall to win the title back for Subaru. This victory marks the third American Championship title of Higgins’ rally career.
Rounding out the podium was Super Production (SP) class driver Travis Hanson and co-driver Terry Hanson. The privateer father/son team put the finishing touches on their flawless season by placing third overall in Maine and third overall in the National Championship. The Hansons dealt with severe overheating issues late in Day 2 while battling to stay ahead of Tom Lawless and co-driver Alex Kihurani. Hanson edged Lawless out of a podium spot by just 7 seconds. Hanson leaves NEFR with the SP class win and a dominant Super Production Championship title victory.
The New England Forest Rally is based in Newry, Maine and features approximately 100 competitive miles of fast, rugged logging roads. Heavy attrition caused by the rough and rocky stage road surfaces is expected, making NEFR one of the toughest events on the Rally America calendar. Retirements were in abundance this year, most notably Joseph Burke who blew his turbo on Stage 1 and Heath Nunnemacher who was in podium contention before crashing out on the famous Concord Pond stage.
Attrition also got the best of Super Production drivers Ramana Lagemann and Lauchlin O’Sullivan. Lagemann and O’Sullivan came to Maine with only one point separating them as they prepared to battle each other for second place in the SP Championship. Lagemann and co-driver Chrissie Beavis were put out of the event early on Day 1 with a misfiring engine; O’Sullivan and co-driver Scott Putnam DNF’d on Stage 4 with a blown turbo and a small engine fire.
Evan Cline and co-driver Greg Dorman scored their season best, finishing second in SP class and ninth overall. Andrew Wickline and co-driver Stephen Kurey also got their first class podium finish of the season, giving Wickline just enough points to take second place in the Super Production Championship ahead of Ramana Lagemann.
In Two-Wheel-Drive (2WD) competition, a fierce battle raged between more than 25 crews fighting for a piece of the $15,000 MaxAttack! Series prize money. Chris Duplessis and co-driver Karl Atkinson set a blistering pace from the beginning to finish well over three minutes ahead of second fastest 2WD crew of Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey. Duplessis put his Ford Fiesta R2 in an astonishing fifth overall.
ACP’s rally almost came to an end when his Scion xD’s oil pan cracked late on Day 2, but he managed to finish second in class and sixth overall. Ford Racing’s Dillon Van Way and co-driver Jake Blattner successfully put a second Fiesta on the class podium and were the third 2WD crew to finish in the top ten overall.
Wyatt Knox and co-driver Ole Holter had a problematic weekend with fuel system issues on Day 1 causing their Mazda3′s engine to cut out several times. Knox limped the car late into Day 2 before an engine fire finally forced him to retire. Knox and Holter earned enough points in the season that their start at NEFR secured them the 2WD National Championship title.
Last Ditch Racing’s John Cassidy and co-driver Jennifer Daly won the Mexico Regional Rally on Day 1 of NEFR by 13.4 seconds over Jason Smith and co-driver Jared Lantzy. Martin Walter and co-driver Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff finished third, rounding out the Mexico Regional podium.
Smith and Lantzy also had a successful Day 2, winning the Errol Regional Rally in their Open Light class 1994 Subaru Impreza by over two minutes on MAP Rally Team’s Mark Piatkowski and co-driver Robert Maciejski. Kevin Turner and co-driver Robert Sockalexis placed third on the Day 2 Regional, piloting a 2WD Subaru Impreza to finish only 5 seconds behind Piatkowski.