For 2012, the New England Forest Rally organizers have made some significant adjustments to the stages. Most notable, the deletion of the very popular Mexico Park Spectator stage on day one because the park is currently undergoing a face lift. Because of a scheduling conflict with the logging company that owns the roads that have typically been used for the Saturday stages, organizers made a late scramble to secure some new stages.
The rally will get underway tomorrow, Friday, with a Spectator Stage which will be held on the service roads around the Sunday River Mountain Resort in Newry, Maine. But the first real test in the rally will come on the stage that was made famous by Mr. Gymkhana himself, Ken Block: Concord Pond. Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino set the fastest stage time in 2009 with an all out run in their Subaru USA Rally Team's STI; a record that remains unmatched to this day. Below is a video of Block's record setting run.
But this could very well be the year that a new time is set for Concord Pond as some drastic changes have been made to the stage over the past year. Several of the large crests have been smoothed out and the famous “over the rock jump” near the end of the stage has been removed. Regardless of the changes, Block’s record time with be tough to better, but there will surely be a few good men lining up tomorrow to take a crack at it.
After a short service, teams will head north to South Arm stage. South Arm is run as a return stage to make up SS3 and SS4. This stage has often decided the eventual winner of the rally.
With the dry conditions leading up to the rally and no rain in sight for tomorrow, dust could play as a major factor. The new stages for Saturday are a major improvement over the bone jarring stages of years gone by. In contrast, they are smooth and super fast in places, but just as quickly tighten and could easily catch out those not driving tight to their notes. David Higgins is on the verge of clinching the 2012 Rally Amercan Championship this weekend. He does not necessarily need to win to clinch; a top five finish would suffice, but we don't expect Higgins to let L'Estage claim an easy victory. And, as always, Crazy Leo will be a factor to keep Higgins and L'Estage on their toes.
Mobile service in the area is spotty to say the lease but we will try and update as we can.
Photo; Neil McDaid