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Caution, rocks on exit: NEFR 2016

The rogue pebble was hurled into the air by a Mitsubishi. Or maybe it was a Subaru. It whizzed through the air, thoroughly enjoyed its trip courtesy of the laws of physics, and ricocheted squarely off of my cheekbone. If I hadn't felt fully "present" at the 2016 New England Forest Rally until that point, I sure did right then.

That errant little rally-rock did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. Like last year, I eagerly counted off the days until I left for Maine, and before I knew it, I was watching it all unfold again. It was all present and accounted for: the machine-gun popping of anti-lag systems, the almost glutinous dust clouds, and the occasional crash (no injuries!). Damn it, I love rally racing.

If you want to see all photos from this event, please scroll down for Flickr links.

I'll admit, I haven't had much racing photography practice since last year (read: none), but I came prepared to do more panning shots. They're tricky, and kind of a gamble until the technique is practiced. I rolled the dice again by choosing to use continuous auto-focus rather than manually focusing to one spot -- it was a good move. The Nikon D750 was pretty damn accurate considering the speed at which some of these machines tore past. 

Over 50 cars entered this year, and what a gamut they spanned. David Higgins and Craig Drew were there in their latest Subaru WRX STi; startup teams with small, front-wheel-drive compacts were there; Bucky Lasek (yep, this guy) was there in his first ever rally event. Not all finished, but all were a blast to watch. 

My sincere thanks to Susan and Pierre Belperron and the whole team of volunteers for the annual VIP Bus Program, which I thoroughly enjoyed yet again. There's no better way to see the New England Forest Rally, unless you're in the helicopter in the above photo. Even then, you likely won't be enjoying catered food and cold beer. Visit the above link and plan a visit for next year, even if you're not the world's foremost gearhead. The whole team puts together an excellent package. 

What rear quarter panel damage?

Not long after I received the rock to the face, I heard the foreboding sound of locking wheels against gravel. Then silence. Then a bunch of thumps, followed by the noises that spectators typically make when someone crashes. 

The driver and co-driver -- a husband and wife duo -- were fine. Their car was not. Since they crashed out near our group, they decided to spectate the rest of the stage with us. They were already discussing what to do with their car, and how they'd be driving at the next rally. 

So it goes. A husband and wife, minutes after their rollover crash, began discussing their next rally. I took a rock to the face and kept taking photos.

Different events, same response. I'll be back, and so will they. Because rally. 

Thumbs up.

Driver/codriver/team member? Want a full res version of any of these images? Head to Flickr and then contact me: