The New England Forest Rally (NEFR) is the fifth of six rallies on the American Rally Association (ARA) in the organization’s first year. As in previous years, the stages are run over two days on forest roads from Bethel, Maine and Errol, New Hampshire. Started in 1991, previous winners include Patrick Richard/Nathalie Richard, Travis Pastrana/Christian Edstrom, Antoine L’Estage/Nathalie Richard, Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino, and David Higgins/Craig Drew.
With a list of 45 entries, the first two stages of the rally kicked off at Concord Pond after Parc Expose at Sunday River Resort, and the race of attrition began. After service and Stage 3, Stage 4 was cancelled; first there was a bit of miscommunication about an injury to Robbie Durant, Travis Pastrana’s co-driver, but after it was resolved communication was lost and the stage was cancelled. Durant suffered an impacted spine and couldn’t continue after Stage 4, then Pastrana put in a formal request to switch co-drivers. Rule books were consulted, and the race steward approved Pastrana continuing the rally on Saturday with a new co-driver. An available, licensed co-driver was found in Greg Dorman, also SRT USA’s Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator. An unusual situation to say the least, but ultimately within the rules.
Saturday started off dramatically when car 111 – Luis Teixeira and Kadence Verge – had an off requiring medical attention and Stage 5 was cancelled. Laughlin O’Sullivan and Scott Putnam had an off on Stage 8 – Sturtevant Long and had to leave the stage with the car on the back of a tow. By the end of Stage 12, both Pastrana and Higgins had damaged right rear suspension, but both were repaired enough in service to continue to the final stage on North Road.
Pastrana won overall with Dorman, Higgins and Drew in second, and Jeff Seehorn and Karen Jankowski in third in only their second time competing at NEFR. Pastrana, ever the sportsman and good-guy, jumped off the podium after the champagne spray and gave his trophy to a young girl in front. Completely speechless, he told the girl to come back next year and he would autograph the trophy for her.
Andrew Comrie-Picard and Jeremy Wimpey drove an all new Ford Focus RS rally car to first place in Production 4WD, and frequent regional competitors Alvin Fong and William Machin had their first ARA national podium in second in the 2006 Mitsubshi Evo 9. Sumit Panjabi and Matt James rounded out the podium in 3rd.
Clinching the Open 2WD Championship was Ryan Millen and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino in the Toyota RAV4.
There was a noticeable increase in spectators since 2015, boding well for rally in North America. NEFR efforts have paid off and the VIP bus has gone from a bus ride on a school bus to a spectator areas on a couple of stages to a VIP experience offering food and drink in addition to the transportation.
ARA has one more rally in its 2017 – Ojibwe Forests Rally August 25-26. While there were some growing pains with the controversy over Pastrana’s co-driver switch and questions over Higgins’ car being underweight at the end of NEFR, the non-profit organization is addressing the issues for future rallies.
…and still no mooses.
Something really cool happened last Fall, when I introduced my kid Duncan to the world of autocross: He brought his best friend and his Fifty-something year old Dad along with their respective machines. Since that first event, the trio have become autocross buddies, learning the ropes of competitive driving from the ground up. Watching from the edge of the circle so to speak, has been good fun and surprisingly satisfying. Yes, I am still addicted to driving, but it is just so cool watching these guys grow. Even the old guy!
On Sunday, they took in their third event with the Oshawa Motorsport Club in the parking lot at Durham College here in Whitby, where there was a super mix of rookies and old dogs competing in a wide variety of equipment.
“Faster than Travis Pastrami and Sébastien Ear Lobe combined”
Forget pickup trucks, Canadian rednecks prefer to hoon in Subarus! At least the rally focused brand is the vehicle of choice for rural Ontario funny guy Randy Rod-Knock!
Taking over a property just a few minutes away from the historic Mosport circuit at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the guy shreds the lawn before taking flight off a berm in the yard.
Caution: NSFW language to follow.
We’re not in Geneva, but our buddy Zack Spencer from Driving Television is, and Subaru let him have a peek at the new 2018 Subaru Crosstrek yesterday, before it was revealed at the Geneva Motor Show. This is a full revamp of Subaru’s plucky little crossover, marking the second generation of the model.
Zack has all the details in this quick “what you need to know” type video.
Source: Motormouth Canada on YouTube
When a company sets out to conquer any given market, they often start out by showing the world just how unique their products are, by creating something that is way outside of what it expected within that market. While that creativity may provide rewards in the form of media exposure and consumer interest, it doesn’t necessarily result in sales that are strong enough to overthrow the traditional leaders.
In the automotive market, where mainstream consumers often look at vehicles as an appliance. Take the two most recent Hyundai Elantra models as an example: The company had already proven the quality of their cars, so they created a super sexy version that looked unlike anything available. They won a whole bunch of conquest sales, but when it came time for a redesign, they dialed the style back in favour of a more mature look. More like a Camry or Accord. Why? Because those two cars are the standard of the market. Gold star appliances that non-car people line up for and for good reason, they are really, really good cars. They just aren’t exactly cars that inspire passion and that is fine, because they sell and car companies are in the business of selling cars.
So why am I going on about the Elantra, Accord and Camry in a review of the Subaru Legacy? Well, I was visiting a friend’s garage one day during the week and as he glanced out of the bay door, he asked “is that an Accord or a Camry?” He wasn’t kidding, he was sure it was one or the other, but couldn’t quite figure it out.
So, what Subaru is offering with the Legacy is a mid to large sized sedan that has a pleasant, somewhat generic shape that can easily be mistaken for the two benchmark models in the segment. That is a good thing. Perhaps more importantly, for the brand loyalists at least, the Legacy drives more like a Subaru. Even with one of the quietest cabins that Subaru has ever offered, the thrum of the company’s signature flat-4 powerplant is always there. For fans, that is comforting. Those new to the brand likely won’t notice, because the cabin is so quiet.
Rather than go the traditional new car review route and prattle on about the driving experience, let me get straight to the reasons that I truly believe the Legacy is the best value in the segment.
Base Price: Canada U.S.A.
2017 Honda Accord $24,590 $22,455
2017 Subaru Legacy $23,495 $21,995
2017 Toyota Camry $25,170 $23,070
There is more to just having the cheapest entry fee though.
Even at its lowest trim level, the Subaru offers all wheel drive, where the other two entries are only available with front wheel drive.
The Canadian consumer, and those in much of the northern half of the States, has to drive in Winter. That means snow. That means that traction is important. The least expensive of these three choices in the segment includes one of the most important mobility features on the market. It isn’t available in the other two.
Given that most of the buyers in this segment might as well be shopping for a new refrigerator, it seems to me that the unit with the lowest price, yet has the most important extra feature is included, is the smartest decision.
Our tester was a mid-range Touring model with a few goodies that the base model does not include. Most importantly for this household, it was equipped with a manual transmission. The Touring package also includes sunroof, passive driver aids and an easy to use infotainment system with a bright 7″ touch display.
Cloth seats are cozy on a cold morning and the back seat is large enough to be comfortable for 3 teens. The trunk is suitably large for the day to day needs of most families, easily swallowing two hockey bags.
If you are in the market for a family sedan, by all means drive the Accord and Camry, you need to do that. Then, head over to your local Subaru dealer and take the Legacy for a spin. Take a look at the price. Then think about the climate you live in. If Winter weather involves white stuff, then you know what the smart thing to do is.
In a live reveal this morning at the fantastic John Basset Theatre in downtown Toronto, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada announced the Canadian Car/Utility Vehicle of the Year.
As I have for the past number of years, I had the honour of announcing the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year, which for 2017 is the Subaru Forester. Program director David Taylor joined me in the announcement, by crowning the Volkswagen Alltrack the Canadian Car of the Year.
Since 1985, AJAC has named the Canadian Car of the Year as a tool to aid consumers who are researching a new vehicle purchase. As the program has evolved over the years, the Canadian Truck of the Year distinction was added and then morphed into the Utility title in a nod to the increasing presence of crossover vehicles into the light truck segment.
A full year of planning goes into the award each year, the highlight of which is the annual Testfest event, where Canada’s top automotive journalists spend the better part of a week evaluating vehicles. Of course the awards ceremony is the most visible and important aspect of the program, but while a week of testing cars is actually work, it is good fun too.
This was the program’s first year on the stage in the stunning John W.H. Basset theatre, having opened the show in past years, in a secondary hall in the South building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The announcements followed the global unveiling of Aston Martin’s stunning new AM-RB 001 concept vehicle. The combination of the two events kicked off the show in a fashion more in keeping with some of the more prominent shows on the global circuit. More on that in a story to follow.
The intention was to shoot for a win in the production class, but when it came time to perform, returning Canadian rally star “Crazy Leo” Urlichich pulled it all together in spectacular fashion to win the Canadian Rally Championship portion of the 2017 Rallye Perce Neige.
In the early morning stages, Subaru Canada Rally Team ace Antoine L’Estage, paired with returning co-driver Alan Ockwell, was fastest on the road, with Urlichich hanging out in the top five, just a handful of seconds behind L’Estage’s open class machine. Canadian rally legend Frank Sprongl assured me via Facebook that Antoine’s style was more suited to the fast and open forest stages which were to follow. Unfortunately for L’Estage, that was not to happen, as technical gremlins left him wrestling with a mostly rear wheel drive Subaru.
By Special Stage 6, Urlichich had won his first stage and not long after was running in third position overall behind American Rally Association entries David Higgins and Travis Pastrana.
Always a fan favourite thanks to his flamboyant driving style, Urlichich commented through the day that the addition of studded tires, which are legal at Quebec events, made all the difference, offering a consistent level of grip at all times.
By the completion of the final stage, Higgins had won the overall event and the ARA portion, followed by teammate Pastrana. Urlichich took third spot in both, while claiming the overall win in the Canadian championship.
Teams now have until May to prepare their machines for the Rocky Mountain Rally in B.C.
Image credit: Maciej Janiak
After a couple of years away from competing, Canadian rally star Leo “Crazy Leo” Urlichich is making a return to the action, beginning this weekend at the season opening Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec.
Best known for his exciting driving style and off stage antics here in Canada, Urlichich underwent a maturing of sorts when he spent the 2014 season competing in the D-Mack Fiesta Trophy series, which is part of the WRC.
Following the season in Europe, the driver returned to Canada, where he invested his time in teaching others to drive. Urlichich’s Race Lab school focuses primarily on teaching the techniques needed to safely drive on mixed surfaces, such as we often find on Canadian roads in the Winter months. Of course Urlichich also offers driver coaching for rally competitors as an extension of the school.
Crazy Leo’s previous rally efforts in this country have been at the wheel of a fluorescent orange, open class Subaru, affectionately known as “The Beast”. For his 2017 entry into the Canadian Rally Championship will instead be a production class Subaru which has been dubbed “Disaster”.
Leo has already been out doing a bit of testing to ensure that Disaster is ready for the challenges of rural Quebec.
Perce Neige has a reputation for being tough on teams, and Crazy Leo has a bit of a history at the event, with his high speed crash during the 2012 event garnering massive attention across the web.
Teams are wasting no time with their driver changes in the new year – on day four of 2017, it was time to hastily update the Rallycross Silly Season Spreadsheet! Subaru announced a big change in their Red Bull GRC team, bringing in one big surprise and one a little more anticipated. First the surprise – Subaru has managed to spirit the seasoned Patrik Sandell from driving a Ford with Bryan Herta Rallysport to the Subie side. A competitor in GRC since 2013, the Swede is no stranger to the champagne spray with one win and five podiums in 2016 alone. Additionally, Australian rally driver Chris Atkinson who competed for the team in select GRC events last season has also been brought onto the team for the full 2017 season in the Vermont SportsCar WRX STI.
“I enjoyed my first taste of rallycross last year with the team, and it’s clear to see the potential both the team and the car have,” explains Atkinson. “I’m excited to come on board full-time with the squad, and I can’t wait to get started. The guys are working so hard in Vermont in the off-season now to really give Patrik and I something very special to drive in 2017.”
Rally driver David Higgins has also driven in a few GRC events for Subaru, and will continue to compete in rally for the USA team. In 2016, the new non-profit ARA (American Rally Association) was formed, headed by Tim O’Neil. Subaru has put their faith in the new sanctioning body and will be a national sponsor for the first year, while fielding Higgins and teammate Travis Pastrana. Sandell and Atkinson are both competitive rally drivers as well, so perhaps we can look forward to some more cross-over between rally and rallycross in the coming year.