Behind the scenes on America’s newest rally

DirtFish spoke to the forces behind the New York Forest Rally, including ARA champion Barry McKenna

Motorsport hasn’t been short of novel solutions in 2020 thanks to the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Rally championships far and wide have been saved, scrapped or shuffled and the USA’s premier series – the American Rally Association – has been no different.

But a series’ champion stepping up, unprompted, to organize a rally, bringing his own unique twist to it? That hadn’t been seen before until the New York Forest Rally happened on October 17.

Two weeks after claiming the ARA National title, Barry McKenna was on something of a lap of honor in his Ford Fiesta WRC. He was quickest on the stages but it was Scottish driver Freddie Milne who went down as the inaugural winner after McKenna opted not to hand in his final timecards.

This wasn’t a self-indulgent ego pursuit for McKenna, though. He didn’t organize a rally so that he can prove how fast he is, nor to revel in his recent championship success. He did it to fill a Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally-shaped hole in the American rallying calendar, and did it in a matter of weeks.

Ultimately the aim was to provide a potential blueprint for the future too, as McKenna and the rest of the all-Irish organizing team – made up solely of competitors – strove to create a competitor-focused rally that brought elements of Europe to the USA.

“We’ve never got the opportunity to set up an event before so it was a great way for us to try and implement what we’ve seen throughout Ireland and the UK and to try and bring it here to America just so people can experience [it],” McKenna told DirtFish.

“It was only a couple of small things but I think it made a big difference. The guys really put a lot of effort in to replicate what we were used to seeing in Europe, I do think that it could be good for the future in America.”

The first ever New York Forest Rally received ARA championship status but was a Regional event, rather than a National one. McKenna wants to change that.

“I would love to bring this same weekend next year to a National event,” he added.

“I think it has all the makings of a National event. We have other roads that we can use, we have a service park that can accommodate 100 cars so there’s a lot of stuff and it is New York at the end of the day so I think we should have a National round and for me there’s no excuse not to.”

DirtFish was on the ground as history was made. Check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the event as we chat to McKenna, rally chairman and co-driver Martin Brady, and ARA National regular Piotr Fetela.

Words:Luke Barry

Photography:DirtFish Media