by Chris Leone / Website / Twitter

In one of the most welcome developments on the 2017 Rally America National Championship schedule, rallying made its triumphant return to the forest roads of Ohio for the first time since 1996 with the debut of the Southern Ohio Forest Rally. Racing on the same roads that legends like John Buffum and Rod Millen had conquered in the 1970s and 1980s, the inaugural edition of SOFR attracted one of the largest entry lists of the 2017 season, with 62 drivers and co-drivers lining up for the start of the event.

Each of those teams got their money’s worth, with 25 stages on the schedule over the two-day event. 35 combinations finished the entire event, with cars from three different classes on the overall podium. In the end, it was Arkadiusz Gruszka and Lukasz Wronski taking the overall and Open class victories, over Super Production winners Timothy Rooney and Ole Holter and 2WD winners Dave Wallingford and Aaron Crescenti.
Ohio’s own Rooney won the first stage of the event, Webb Hollow North, before Gary Donoghue and Andrew Browne took the next three. Donoghue and Browne were the most dominant stage winners of the event, winning 11 of the first 20, but Gruszka and Wronski still held the overall lead entering Brutus West on the second day of the rally. It was on that stage that Gruszka drove to his sixth and final stage victory of the weekend, while Donoghue failed to finish and dropped out of the rally.

Fan favorite Seamus Burke, rallying his 1977 Ford Escort MK2 alongside co-driver Martin Brady, won the last three stages before the Super Special despite having dropped out of contention for the overall win and competing under Super Rally rules. Likewise, it was Reid Andress and Jared Lantzy who won the final stage of the rally at the Ross County Fairgrounds as another Super Rally competitor.
In fact, of the six stage winners last year—combining for 18 of the 25 stage victories—four (Donoghue, Burke, Andress, and Charles Surdyke) were listed with DNFs in the overall results. Only Gruszka and Rooney completed the event.

Class winners in last year’s Southern Ohio Forest Rally were as follows:

  • Open: Arkadiusz Gruszka/Lukasz Wronski (1st overall)
  • Super Production: Tim Rooney/Ole Holter (2nd overall)
  • 2WD: Dave Wallingford/Aaron Crescenti (3rd overall)
  • National Limited Open: Samir Kaltak/Anthony Vohs (5th overall)
  • B-spec: Daniel McCarron/Matthew Blake (26th overall)