Pastrana wins New England Forest Rally; Comrie-Picard drives new Team O'Neil car to fourth placeBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
July 23. 2017 10:49PM
UPTON, Maine —Travis Pastrana loves New England.
On Saturday, the X-Games star and rally champion from Annapolis, Md., pulled another rabbit out of his hat. Less than two weeks after setting a record in the Subaru Mount Washington Hill Climb, he won the 13th and final stage of the 27th New England Forest Rally, winning the rally in the process.
Like at the Auto Road, where on July 9 he blew away the record and returned on his second run to break it again, Pastrana won the NEFR in dramatic fashion.
During the first day of racing on Friday on logging roads in western Maine and northeastern New Hampshire, Pastrana’s No. 199 Subaru WRX STI was humming along at about 120 miles per hour when it became airborne and sailed about 200 feet down the course.
Upon impact, co-driver Robbie Durant suffered what the Subaru Rally Team USA called a “compression injury.” While Durant was willing to finish out the NEFR, Pastrana drafted Grzegorz Dorman into service and cumulatively, the Pastrana-Durant/Pastrana-Dorman team posted a time of 1:29:36, which was almost 42 seconds faster than that of fellow Subaru teammates David Higgins and Craig Drew.
“Oh, my gosh, It’s been exhausting in an awesome way,” said Pastrana on Saturday, a short time after he and Dorman were proclaimed the winners in both the Open class and overall.
Pastrana and Higgins also damaged their cars, possibly on the same rock, during the penultimate stage on Saturday.
Nonetheless, said Pastrana. “New England has been very good to me. I don’t know if we were the best today but that’s rally.”
Californian Andrew Comrie-Picard and his co-driver, Jeremy Wimpey, finished fourth, about 11 minutes behind Pastrana-Dorman.
The Ford Focus RS finished first in the Production 4WD Class. The car was built by Dalton’s Team O’Neil Motorsports. Tim O’Neil, who is a former rally champion and the founder of the Team O’Neil Rally School, said the NEFR was a good proving ground for the car.
While Subaru Rally Team USA will likely maintain its advantage in rally racing for the foreseeable future, it was great to see a non-factory team be competitive, said O’Neil.
“We had to get rid of some of the safety features,” explained O’Neil, who is also president of the American Rally Association, which sanctioned the 2017 NEFR.
“With modern cars, it’s very difficult to make them work on loose surfaces,” said O’Neil, but the Focus RS, which he called “my science project,” has addressed most of those issues.
O’Neil congratulated all the competitors, including Granite Staters Erik Potts of Stratham and Scott Beliveau of Laconia, who finished 15th and 28th overall.