Attrition: NEFR 2017
Ah, the dust.
Every year, it ribbons out from beneath the wheels of specially-prepped rally cars, a salvo of rocks leading its charge. The pebbles land around you like light hail, and the air goes quiet as the enormous cloud of disturbed earth lingers over everyone, muffling their coughs and laughs. The breeze usually takes most of it away within thirty seconds; it all starts again soon after. You hear the engine and its anti-lag system, firing away like a distant shotgun blast. Fast car, rocks, dust. Repeat. This is the New England Forest Rally.
I love it.
I can't see myself ever outgrowing it, even when things go wrong.
For me, things went quite wrong when my camera strap's quick-release failed on day two. My shoulder went light, and I felt the muffled thud as my camera and lens hit the ground. The lens mount didn't survive the impact, and the camera will be out of commission until Nikon can work their magic on it. Still, I like to think I have some keepers in this bunch!
For others, it was more costly. Cars rolled, failed, and broke, sometimes before they even began -- I wish we could've seen Noble Star Rally compete with their Subaru Impreza. Their car looked great, and they supplied the bus tour group with some solid swag. Yet it was not to be, at least this time around.
Others still paid a higher cost. Travis Pastrana's co-driver suffered a compression injury to his neck when the car took an unexpected dip in the road -- no safety equipment can really protect you from extreme downward G-force. Kadence Verge, co-driver for the Wicked Nasty Motorsports team, suffered a broken pelvis when her car went through an unscheduled visit to a ditch and into a tree. Thankfully, she'll be OK.
Thus, the mood was a little dour as the 2nd day of the rally continued. Ultimately, Travis Pastrana -- everyone's favorite motocrosser-turned-racing-driver -- won the event, taking it from NEFR legend David Higgins' grasp by just over a second. No matter what happens, there's never a dull moment!
Despite the broken cars, cameras, and bones, I suspect that no one has really lost their enthusiasm for rallying. Waivers are signed by all parties, even the spectators on the excellent VIP Bus Tour -- it's a dangerous game. Bad things happen, and when they do, they hit hard and fast. This is the risk we all run, because everyone -- from the drivers, organizers, volunteers and spectators -- loves it.
It's nebulous, this infection of ours. Words can't always articulate it; perhaps it's easiest to label it as an obsession. We like to build and drive cars fast, and watch them get driven. It doesn't really rub off. Even in the face of a staggering attrition rate, we keep going, because it's something that makes us feel completely alive for a few brief hours at a time.
I can't wait to inhale that damn dirt again.
If you'd like a hi-res copy of any of these images, drop me a line via my Contact page -- let me know the four-digit number at the end of each image title.
As always, I must extend a huge thank-you and job-well-done to Susan Belperron and all of the volunteers who help run the VIP Bus Tour for the New England Forest Rally. Please attend with me next year!