When’s the right time? That’s easy. There isn’t one. There just isn’t. Worlds fell apart again. On any level, the loss of Erin Kelly on the fifth stage of the New England Forest Rally is a tragedy. Nothing short.
Which raises the question of what to do with the beautiful picture our own Colin Clark took of TJ Pullen and Erin after SS4 on Friday?
After a lot of soul-searching and discussion, we’ve taken the decision to run this picture to remind people of the joy in Subaru #909. From talking to competitors and officials from the American rally community, that’s something that simply never changed.
ARA competition director Preston Osborn got it right on Saturday.
“It was all smiles in that car.”
And it was.
Having entertained DirtFish’s Colin Clark and Brenten Kelly with a race against time to get his gloves on, TJ and Erin talked about the fierce competition going on around them. But the plan for Saturday night was simple.
TJ said: “We’ll sit around and have a beer afterwards and talk about it. We’re good buddies.”
That’s what rallying’s all about. It’s what pulls the community together.
Is there anything in the thought that Erin went doing what she loved? Personally, I have to think there is
Talking about the picture, Colin said: “The pair of them were just happy. You could see it and you could feel it – they were full of energy and ready to get about the next stage. We talked to the two of them three times through Friday and every time it was so obvious how much fun they were having and how much they were loving every second of it.
“This is my first time at New England, my first time on an ARA round for a while and when you come to a new event you make connections with crews. It’s hard to explain how or why, it’s just… something – TJ and Erin were a highlight crew for me.
“That’s why I took that picture, Erin was laughing and TJ was the same. Just lovely, lovely people.”
Look into the picture, the joy, the happiness and the energy radiates.
Collectively, rallying’s heart goes out to Erin’s family and friends – as it does to TJ.
Jeremy Meyer, ARA’s business and marketing director, told DirtFish: “They really were all about the fun and the enjoyment. They’d been together in the car for [practically] their whole time in the sport – neither of them had [ever really] competed with anybody else.
“As much as they were having fun, they were so competitive as well. And, boy, they were having a good run here – just like they always did.
“It’s so hard for everybody.”
Is there anything in the thought that Erin went doing what she loved?
Personally, I have to think there is.
Already, 2023 has very much been a year to forget.
The loss of Craig Breen was brought back into firm focus at Raven’s Rock Rally earlier this month, but being in Ireland and listening to folk who, like me, talked to the Irishman just before his testing crash, one thing was clear: Craig was in his element.
He couldn’t wait to pull the helmet on, take first gear and send it into the stage. That feeling was just the same yesterday.
For Erin, as for Craig, the thrill came from both the competition and community.
Does that make the loss any easier to take? Of course it doesn’t. Does it ease the pain for Erin’s family, her husband of a year? Not a bit.
But through the tears, please remember the smiles.