2022: New England Forest Rally

The New England Forest Rally is a performance stage rally event that takes place across both New Hampshire and Maine. Held mainly on logging roads, with some of the longest stages in North America rallying, the event is now typically run in the summer when the road conditions are often dry and dusty. The 2022 event, the 31st running of NEFR, took place this year over the July 15-16 weekend.

Along with notable names and local heroes, 25 NER driving teams participated in this year’s NEFR. Many of those teams took the time to recap their weekend highlights and adventures to share with our readers. Here are their stories.

(All photos provided by the drivers.)

NER Results

NER team highlights from the New England Forest Rally. Check out all the top honors in multiple classes!

  • D. Gondyke/B. Chuong take the overall regional win and class win in NA4WD.
  • TJ Pullen/E. Kelly take 2nd in NA4WD and 4th overall due to a time card penalty otherwise they would have won overall.
  • D. Downey/S. Gouin take 3rd in Open 2WD and 5th overall despite power issues that plagued their performance throughout the event.
  • J. Whitsell/M/ Whitsell lost the lead in the L2WD class at the end of the rally with a late mechanical issue that gives them 1m50s of lateness penalty leaving the victory to C. Cyr/M. Headland. The Whitsell couple takes 2nd in L2WD and 7th overall. L. Horrocks/G. Hayes complete the L2WD podium with an 11th overall finish.
  • The all female team of M. Sharron/J. Holden takes the win in L4WD class beating her husband’s team (E. Cecchet/J. Desgroseilliers) that finished 2nd in class. The Frog Racing team finished 8th and 9th overall.
  • K. Brolin/A. McCrady finished 4th in L2WD and 12th overall after a rubbing with a rock on stage.
  • T. Gearheart/J. Alexander got 4th in L4WD and 13th overall after a trouble free event.
  • A. Noyes/K. Stone took 4th in O2WD and 15th overall.
  • CherokStars Racing P. Cherok/M. Cherok are 4th in NA4WD and 17th overall.
  • E. Best/H. Littlefield take 5th in NA4WD and 20th overall ahead of N. Cook/J. Beliveau (6th in L2WD/21st overall).
  • S. Reeve/D.Baker (7th L2WD/22nd overall) finish just ahead of the all female team of K. Moody/A. Dilks (6h O2WD/23rd overall) that ended up the last stage with a broken suspension!
  • Finally T. Sanders/S. Carlson took the win in O4WD and 24th overall after being the only survivors of their class at the end of the rally.

As usual NEFR proved to be a challenging event and several teams hit trouble before reaching the end. T. Thomas/S. McAdams blew up their engine on the first stage. M. White/Geoff Clark had an impressive off on SS8 directly in the bushes (watch the video online). The all female team of E. Mohan/A. LaRoza also ended their rally on SS8. P. Rizzo/G. Ray had an off on SS9 followed by A. Burden/B. Proseus on SS10. J. Melim/P. Longtine lost the brakes and had an off on SS11. Broken motor mounts for R. Sockalexis/N. Sockalexis on SS11 and radiator failure for A. Benson/Z. Stewart on SS13.

Driver/Team Recaps

Frog Racing car #122 – Margaret Sharron/Jen Holden

Team Princess finally beats Team Frog!!! It’s been years of seat time, building confidence, and finally having a regular co-driver that has helped boost Margaret Sharron of Frog Racing to the first place podium winning NEFR’s L4WD regional class! Her co-driver Jen Holden stated “she drove like the wind” and other competitors commented on the impossible pace she set on Day 1 after getting over her jitters on Concord Pond seeing that she hit a tree the last time she completed here in 2019! Many Kudos to the women of NER and for proving that we race as equals! 

Frog Racing car #966 – E. Cecchet/J. Desgroseilliers

The event started poorly with engine power down from the start of the first stage. Tentative repairs at first service did not identify the issue and a lot of time was lost trying to preserve the engine until the end of the day. To add insult to injury, the driver sprained his ankle badly at service sliding on the service tarp. The crew worked all night long to finally find a faulty mass airflow sensor. With the car fixed for day 2, it was about getting some of the time lost back for the hopping Frog team. A good push led to some good times but Margaret and Jen’s lead was too big and the FrogSTiR team had to settle for 2nd place in L4WD class. It was awesome to be able to spray champagne on the podium with both Frog Racing teams on the top steps!

Mike White/Geoff Clark car #911

The Saab 900 (car 911) of Mike White/Geoff Clark enjoyed the competition in L2WD with the Whitsells, Cyr/Headand and Horrocks/Hayes into Saturday morning when a “slippy” note removed from a right 4 into left 4 coupled with the dumb-ass driver wanting to show off for spectators resulted in a clumsy entrance into the roadside foliage. While certain doom was avoided by not falling into a pit-of-despair shaped creek, the team was unable to self extract. After receiving a gentle tug from sweep (phrasing) they were able to return to service, ziptie the Swedish rally tractor back together and go back to overdriving the remaining stages. Thank you workers, organizers and crew and thank you eEuroparts.com for the amazing support!! Photo credits – daggerSLADE media

Down East Rally Team (DERT) Car #445 Tyler Saunders/ Scott Carlson

This was our second stage rally and it was also my first time in a car with co-driver, Scott Carlson. We started the weekend with three goals in mind: have fun, learn new things, and finish. Day one it only took a few stages before Scott and I found our rhythm and we started getting comfortable in the car. As the day progressed we got faster and smoother, with only two real “pucker moments”. Unfortunately, at the end of day one, the crew found chunks of spider gear in the rear differential. After fishing out what we could with a magnet, we filled the diff with new oil and crossed our fingers. 

Day two we dialed it back a little bit to try to preserve the diff. Being that I’m in novice class, finishing and getting the miles was more important than fast times. We held a pretty consistent pace and had a lot of fun along the way. Service consisted of the usual spanner checks, changing the differential oil, and replacing various zipties. Luckily, the rear differential held together and we were able to finish the event!! This rally is definitely a war of attrition, and we ended up being the only car in the O4WD class to finish.

Best Rally Team #696 NEFR Recap

Best Rally Team set out to overcome some new challenges at NEFR2022. This event offered a true test of ability, endurance, and skill for Driver Edward Best and Co-Driver Heather Littlefield. New England Forest Rally was their first full national event together. Best Rally Team also brought 2 additional new crew members lovingly dubbed the “Crewbies.” Even though it was their first full national event the Crewbies were a huge help to long time crew members Becky Best and Ken Best. Edward set out to learn new gearing in the car. Figuring out the shifting points and general pace of the car was a big piece of this adventure. By the end of Day 2 Edward said he was feeling more comfortable with the car and was able to push. The UniCARn is the first AWD rally car Heather has navigated in, this made figuring out timing and adjustment in the notes an important task for her, especially after a 4-year hiatus from co-driving. “This is the fastest car I’ve sat in. The longer stages I knew would be more challenging. I didn’t find my co-driver groove again until the afternoon of day 2. Not that I did horrible before but you could really tell the difference once I was in it, I was really pushing Ed through the last stages and it felt great.” Heather said. Despite a 1:00 penalty from day 1 they finished 44.1 seconds away from 4th position, not bad for an old 2.2 liter Subaru engine. All and all a successful event for the team.

Cherokstars Racing #917 – Phil Cherok & Maggie Cherok

NEFR 2022 was the second run for the Cherokstars Racing team having another year together gaining seat time. Entering the rally with a goal of improving over 2021, results from this year did not disappoint. Day 1 started off a little slower than hoped as Phil and Maggie were shaking off some memories from Concord Pond the previous year – having been right behind Shawn Costello when he hit the guard rail and another team that rolled over. The roads were also a little more marbley than last year so they took it slow to warm up. Phil was excited to run Beaver Pond in the afternoon – his favorite stage. Gunning it for the photographers at the bridge, Maggie lost her notes after they narrowly made the left turn. Some solar glare on Icicle Brook got a little hairy, but Cherokstars finished Day 1 with no car issues to report and were feeling confident in the notes by the end of the day.

Day 2 had an exciting new start with North Road Reverse, a super fun stage. Outside of a little tour of a grassy area, Phil was on point and Maggie was on pace. Phil was stoked to get to Sturtevant Short to do a little skiing in the last few miles of turns. All other morning stages had great conditions and the team raced on only doing some minor damage to some underbody protection. Headed into the afternoon, the second run of Sturtevant did not go as planned. Some unclear communication on stage causing the team to slow to investigate impacted the last minute of the run – the best part! Luckily Cherokstars got to race each remaining leg of the rally despite some delays, some competitors were not as fortunate. As the day went on more competitors broke down or left the field and the dust started to hang. Phil and Maggie played it safe while still pushing and were thrilled to get to North Road for the final leg. Having narrowly bumped off the road in 2021 right at finish, Maggie called the turn on time and a little slower this time and the team finished NEFR once again all smiles.

Overall, Phil and Maggie were more confident this year and were happy to finish the rally with little damage to the car and more seat time together. Finishing without any penalties and narrowly missing 3rd place, the team has set a new bar for next year. Hoping to come back in 2023 with more confidence, a try at shakedown to start Day 1 stronger, and more familiarity with the roads. Being married to your teammate seems to work out for this team, nothing like having your partner beside you in a rally car!

Kathy Moody / Amy Diks #894

This year we finished all the stages for New England Forest. Just didn’t make it back to the last control.

Thursday started with little excitement, low beam lights decided to not play nice. So we were sent away from tech to make them work. Thanks Karen Sullivan, Dave Burden, Warren Elliott, David Baker , Luke Horrocks and Chris Martin for helping troubleshoot the issue. We got them working and passed tech.

Friday stages were fairly uneventful. Maybe got a smidge of air on the Concord Pond jump. We didn’t leave much for Al and Karen to do other than check Zed over.

Saturday, well, was more interesting. I had an oopsy that resulted in an off road excursion. Luckily it was into a big field and we drove right out. Amy did continue to giggle while culling notes for a good mile or so. Last service before north road, the last stage of the rally, a check of the car turned up a broken strut tube on the left side. David Baker said no way we weren’t finishing, use our welder. So Todd and Karen Sullivan, sprung into action and put some spot welds on the crack so we could go hot on the last stage. We transited carefully to the stage start. Amy Dilks gave me all the instructions on going hot while trying to not finish off the strut. So off we went. Stage is short, but fast and flowing. Over flying finish the car got way out of shape, I collected it over finish, all good. Drive into control and notice brake pedal is now on the floor, I got no brakes. No biggie we can engine/ebrake our way back. Then half a dozen workers come flying over and start pointing at the right front. For good reason, its clearly not ok. And the reason the brakes failed. Strut tube completely failed causing the wheel and tires to flop around cutting a brake line. Fellow competitors Chris Nonack Sara Nonack came to help. Chris and Amy started plotting how to do some rally engineering to get us back on the road. Borrowed a Jack and tool from Stephanie Zadrozny Reeve and Dave. Then RoadwayRescue Car Slayers offered up an aluminum bat and a Sawzall to cut a piece of it to fit in the strut to support it. With that done Chris and Amy ratchet strap the suspension to hopefully get us back. A control worker who had cell service helped contact our crew to come get us just in case. Chris and Sarah followed us until the tire finally exploded from rubbing. It was over. So we took pics of orange pointy cars together and waited for crew, Karen and Todd to come get us. Todd was awesome, used some more rally engineering to ratchet the car up on the trailer using the trailer straps. Note to self, get a winch. Oddly enough, after I worked them to death, they want to come back next year. Thank you again for crewing. Woman And Machine.

Chris Martin, Andy McDonough , Jordan Melim stopped to help finish getting car loaded also, thanks guys. I think we were faster than last year, roads were rough and digging thru some deep corners slowed us a bit. I was getting fast enough and listening enough to have to adjust the way Amy was calling notes so I could go hotter into the twisties.

Despite it all, still a happy camper. Car is back home in the shop and Todd is working to try to fab up a solution to the broken strut tubes.

We will do it all again next year.

Karoppi Racing / Stephanie Reeve and David Baker, Car #570

So where does one begin? Probably at the beginning if one was to be logical. Our 2022 NEFR rally adventure really started at the 2021 running of NEFR. A new team, a new car, a big event and the wheel literally fell off our borrowed wagon half way through day two. Disappointment you can feel in your bones only slightly numbed by a blast down the only stage we didn’t recce ‘North Road’ on 19 out of 20 lug nuts and no front fender. Bitter sweet to say the least.
We regrouped, slept, ate, we finished “Griffin” Stephanie’s rally Rabbit, and we did ALL the SCCA sprints over the down time. Then we successfully completed SOFR, an epic adventure all in its own. NEFR was our nemesis, it’d be my (David’s) third attempt having DNF’ed previous attempts and Steph was out for retribution. We are a relatively new team, Steph’s and my 3rd stage rally together; we’re still learning the ropes, becoming comfortable with the pace of it all, our communication, and all the trials and tribulations that come with building a rally car, and that is where we really start our NEFR story…

Steph has been a hardcore autocrosser for years and years; you can find her name near the pointy end of the very skilled cone dodgers of the SCCA. While her C7 Grand Sport on sticky Hoosier slicks has a steering wheel and 3 pedals just like Griffin, the driving dynamics are completely different, and those rocks bite a lot harder than the little rubber cones. We “upgaded” one of the biggest downfalls of poor Griffin just days before NEFR with a new set of suspension from Intrax and the leap in technology and car feel was HUGE.

We had finished Recce and trundled off to the shake down stage. After one pass we were literally shaken, the suspension was tuned for REALLY fast, very experienced drivers and the speed needed to make them feel competent was a little hard to comprehend. Going just 8/10ths made the car feel unstable and bouncy, shaking us hard, we needed a LOT more speed that we just didn’t have at that point. Having completely killed Steph’s confidence, we had a little freak out, a little fettling of the knobs on these fancy shocks, and we set out again, and… it was deemed almost acceptable. The only thing we hadn’t counted on was the dust and the solar glare, while over shadowed by the suspension afflictions to our pace, we’d learn it wasn’t something unique to the practice stage. The team’s anxiety that evening was high, but we’d overcome obstacles like this before, Hello SOFR marbles.

Friday morning was the fan fare of Parc Exposé, the big names of the sport being hounded by adoring fans, teams doing last minute checks on cars, snacks and water with the usual banter between teams. We were calm-ish, drawing the adorable fans in the crowd with the collection of Keroppi plushies that are our mascots, giving out team keychains, candy and asking that the amazing children sign the hood to help us on our way and provide some protection on our epic journey through the woods. It was a magical experience filled with smiles and gratitude. Before we knew it, it was GO time!

Off to the first stage, Concord Pond, one of the most famous stages in all of the US rally scene. Its full of fast sweeping turns, jumps, and a few surface changes from dirt to asphalt. We started slow, feeling out this new suspension, shaking off the cobwebs, working on note timing and buckling down to become faster. That first stage is always a doozy, no major incidents but not the perfection we’d hoped for. We knew we had more in us and we’d get a second crack at it just a few hours later. As with all great adventures, it’s never the things you plan on going wrong that do. Pulling up to the second round of Concord Pond something was wrong with the Coms, I could hear Steph but she couldn’t hear me… in line… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 “GO Steph GO” I screamed at the top of my lungs… hand signals and screaming, dirt and dust, cuss words and full throttle 5 cylinder wailing… and in what seemed like a few seconds we finished, my throat was on fire, but we’d chopped 14 seconds off our previous time… and this was the tone we continued through the rally, perseverance over any and all obstacles.

Later that day we learned about dust as we started to catch the car in front of us and then the impressively blinding solar glare one gets in the dusty woods near sundown, one such instance approaching a tight left after a high speed down hill section caused the need for a panic stop for which we greeted a pole with a corner arrow bonking our mirror and passenger window, at the time quite the startle but something we now smile and reminisce about. The day ended with an appreciation for what the fast guys must be doing to go that much faster, appreciation for our amazing crew keeping us in a running rolling car with water and snacks at the ready and for each other and the killer team we are working through all the ups and downs with admiration and respect for the parts we play in hurling this amazing machine down the logging roads of Maine.

Back at service the crew jumped to action, checking Griffin over, feeding us, cleaning and asking all about the days adventure… sleep came fast and deep that night, Saturday started early and promised us more of the same.

What a Saturday it was! The second day of competition, our 4th of the rally when you count the 2 days of recce. The day’s stages promised to be faster and more technical than the previous day’s. We’d also be back on the roads that killed our hopes in 2021 and while tired we were ready for action. The first pass of the stages went fairly uneventful with no major issues, but the dust was becoming more of an aggravation as our speed was coming and coming on rapidly as we really started catching the car in front, crossing the finish line of Aziscohos 1st pass only 14 second behind the car who left a minute in front of us. On a stage we had an offroad adventure through a meadow because we couldn’t see the corner thanks to the dust. Thankful for the shield of protection from all of those wondering children that signed our car back in Parc Expose, we didn’t hit nor damage a thing, rejoining the road with a flourish of right footed determination from Steph. After this we then passed the point of disappointment from the year before… and celebrated!

Finishing the round of stages, a service, and back out. With dust concerns mounting we asked for a “dust minute” at the start of Aziscohos 2nd pass and was thankfully granted one. Steph’s confidence in the suspension was no longer in question, my note reading had stepped up (read as “had to step up”) a gear as well and we were improving in leaps and bounds. And you know what, we crossed the finish line only 19 seconds behind the car that started 2 minutes before us! Flying, literally, figuratively, all of this was jelling together.

By the time we got to the last stage it didn’t feel like the same pair that had started the event. Steph was flying, I was on point with notes and the confidence could be seen in the speed and drifts the car was perming as it danced down stage. In the end we did it, we finished NEFR. Did we podium? Nope. Did we feel amazing? YES! We’d come from a very shaky test stage that killed a lot of confidence, we’d battled dust and sun blindness, we’d overcome our own mistakes and we’d persevered and we won’t forget this adventure for a long long time.

Rally is a team sport and even more so a community sport. Karoppi Racing would like to thank everyone who helped out, from those who helped build the car, to our crew, to the organizers, the amazing volunteers, our fellow competitors who share so much encouragement and knowledge, our sponsors, to our family and friends. THANK YOU!!

Final Results

Official results are available here. Download PDF of Results.