The Southern Ohio Forest Rally is a completely new event. However, it has been in the works and smoldering for several years and is now ready to explode like a fire breathing, waste gate chirping, gravel spewing Group B WRC car starting a stage. When registration first opened it maxed out the entries in only a few hours. The organizers expanded the entry and it maxed out again. It is still hard to believe 80 entries for new event. SOFR might be new but there is a lot of rally history here. The SCCA has run several rallies in this area. One of the events featured a downtown spectator stage in Octangee Park that generated a lot of memories. Who can forget Noel Lawler’s midair pass or Jon Woodner standing his Peugeot 205 T16 on its nose at the jump. The Peugeot was so far over that it broke all of the rally lights and looked like it was going over onto its roof. Somehow the car fell back on its wheels. Sadly we will not be able to run the park this year due to a scheduling conflict. Maybe next year.
The SOFR stages are very technical with lots of elevation changes. You are either running along the top of the ridge or weaving through the valleys and gullies. One of the stages was named America’s Best. It was a beautiful road with white gravel and 10 feet of mowed grass on either side. It was fast, fun, challenging and correctly named. Another of the stages was named Moonshine Express. The rumor is that the road was used by bootleggers and moonshine runners. They eventually grew into NASCAR that is now using stages for scoring – Go Figure.
So what will this new chapter hold? I can’t wait to find out.
Gruszka and Wronski have won the first two Rally America events this season and could easily make it three. Can anyone knock them off? At Sno*Drift Jon Kramer held the overall lead for most of the race until his dreams of victory went poof in a snow bank. Andress/Moser also have the speed and won several of the Sno*Drift stages. Both teams had to skip 100AW so now we will see how they compare on the technical stages of SOFR. Donoghue/McElhinney not only beat out Burk/Brady for the best Irish sounding name but have the speed and experience to challenge for the win. Cline/Dorman are back in an Evo and will be near the top. They could challenge for the win but they haven’t raced in a while and will be knocking off some rust. Will any of them have the speed and handling to out-duel the mighty Mitsubishi?
Bugaj/Dziubanski and the LaRosa’s are tied for the Rally America Championship NLO Class points lead and are both overcoming issues from 100AW. They will have their work cut out for them as the rest of the NLO field is fast and gunning for them. Andress/Moser won NLO at Sno*Drift and were extremely fast and even won several stages outright. They must be considered the NLO team to beat. It is Samir’s turn to race this event with Rachelle Kaltak taking over baby duties. Kaltak/Vohs showed lots of speed at LSPR last year and should challenge for the class title.
By far the largest class at SOFR is 2WD with 34 entries. Wallingford/Crescenti are the current class points leaders but Burk/Brady are coming on strong. At 100AW they debuted their 325HP Ford Escort MK2 and won the class while finishing 6th overall. They look to be the team to beat in 2wd. Steely/Osborn have showed flashes of speed but have been plagued by bad luck so far this season. “We will be back in top form for Southern Ohio Forest Rally” said a confident Cam Steely. The Honda Team will be debuting the long awaited Honda Civic R for James Robinson. This beautiful 300HP monster should turn as many heads as it is fast. In the hands of James Robinson it should be in the hunt for the class win.
With 21 entrants the OL/SP class continues to be one of the most subscribed classes in the Rally America Championship. SOFR features 17 OL cars and 3 SP cars. At Sno*Drift the OL cars stole the show. At 100AW everyone expected the SP cars to run away with it. That didn’t quite happen. An SP car won, but OL cars were 2nd and 3rd. What will happen on the slower more technical roads of SOFR? Usher/Langosch are the current class leaders with a 4 point lead over Rooney/Holter. Usher is coming off a blown motor at 100AW and will be looking to rebound with a fresh motor. Rooney/Holter have been strong all season and could easily be standing on the podium at the end of the event. Kramer/Jacques led the Sno*Drift rally for most of the event and are planning to pick up where they left off and put the turbo cars in their rear view mirror. Cline/Dorman are the red herring in the group. They have been very fast but haven’t raced in a while and have a new car. Can they knock the rust off while dialing in a new car?
The team of McCarron/Blake are leading B-Spec in their Honda Fit. Erickson-Chang/Barbera-Pullen are second in their over-hyphenated Ford-Fiesta-3CYL-1L-T. Tracey Gardnier has her Toyota Yaris sitting in 3rd while Jean-Pierre Rasaiah is 4th in his Chevy Sonic. McCarron/Blake look to continue their dominance of the class but Erickson-Chang/Barbera-Pullen can challenge them for the win.
Whatever happens the real heroes of the event will be the organizers and volunteers. In only a few short months they have pulled together and developed an idea into a one of the largest events on the North American Rally Calendar. Congratulations!!!!!!