Brandon Semenuk and Keaton Willaims won the New England Forest Rally, round six of the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship, over Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino by just 0.9 seconds.
Block had been leading the rally going into the final stage, which was also the powerstage, and ran second on the road to Semenuk. That proved a disadvantage, as he suffered through extremely thick dust that made it nearly impossible to commit.
“I got screwed because of dust,” Ken told DirtFish after the rally. “I lost a race because of dust.
“It’s real unfortunate because we weren’t given the opportunity to get the win there at the end.”
Semenuk’s Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate Travis Pastrana finished third and echoed Block’s comments, saying: “Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino went through sheer clouds of dust to where we couldn’t even tell if we were on the road, and put in a time that was still within only four seconds of Brandon Semenuk on that last one.
“We put on a good run, but was just completely blind from the dust.”
The dust was so thick, DirtFish’s photographers were unable to even get a photo of Block as he passed by at the finish.
But for the man up front, Semenuk, it was just a normal stage.
“Honestly, not much to report,” he said as he reached parc fermé as winner. “We just had a really clean, felt-good stage.
“I would’ve been stoked on even getting second in the power stage, to get max points and to take those seconds back from Ken, I can’t even believe it.”
While battle at the top was raging on, the LN4 class was playing out in the favor of one Klim Fedoff, who, after 20 years of coming to NEFR, finally got a chance to compete on it and found himself at the top of his class and in fifth overall.
“To participate, and to get first in class on the first rally is a very good feeling,” he told DirtFish.
Fedoff’s main competition, last year’s NA4WD class winner Arek Bialobrzeski, trailed him by a little over a minute. A puncture on one of Saturday’s stages didn’t help the team either.
Rounding out the LN4 podium was first-time US competitor Vincent Trudel, who, after competing the past few years in Canada, was able to get an impressive finish on the harsh NEFR in seventh overall.
Dylan Murcott had been a longshot favorite after getting the car out of the trailer mere minutes before he was schedule in at time control one, but with engine temperatures reaching into the 270F range, the team retired to avoid damage.
The two-wheel-drive classes had the biggest attrition rate of them all, and in the end the tiny, reliable, near stock limited-class Toyota Yaris of Tracey Gardiner proved slow and steady reliability can be all you need.
Seamus Burke had led the class up until SS12, when clipping a rock sent he and navigator Martin Brady flipping. Though both were uninjured, the car was unfit to race.
Burke’s main competition fell off on Friday with Michael Hooper suffering fuel delivery issues, and Cameron Steely having a stage one off and going into super rally there after. Steely could have put in a fight but motor issues took him out a second time on Saturday.
Nick Allen led the class in Burke’s wake in his Fiesta R2 right up until the final stage, where he rolled his car for the second time this weekend. Though the car was once again drivable, and crew once again uninjured, the time it took to get the car back on its wheels was enough for Gardener to move ahead.
The parallel Maine & New Hampshire Regional Rally was led from start to finish by TJ Pullen and Erin Kelly, but a five-minute penalty was assessed and handed down for allegedly checking in to time control 13 five minutes early.
Dylan Gondyke has therefore been named as the provisional winner. The pair are long-time friends, and had battled together the whole way into the final stage.
Following Gondyke is the Ford Fiesta R2 of Derek James, and then the BMW of Alex Kuklov, who led the rally after the first few stages on Friday.
Overall, out of 61 entries, a total of 39 competitors managed to finish the event this year, and two of those had retired earlier in the rally. The harsh and unforgiving stages of NEFR have proven once again to be some of the most notorious in the county.