The second half of the 2023 American Rally Association (ARA) season kicks off with the Southern Ohio Forest Rally (SOFR) from June 8-10. Defending overall ARA series champion Brandon Semenuk and co-driver Keaton Williams hold the points lead heading into Southern Ohio, with the Subaru Motorsports USA team preparing for a fast SOFR course, one steeped in history, during an important milestone weekend for American rallying.
The Yoctangee Street Stage that runs through the downtown of Chillicothe starts the 2023 Southern Ohio Forest Rally on Thursday night, with action picking up Friday morning before wrapping up on Saturday. Stages are mostly gravel with patches of tarmac; the tight, technical forest roads mean drivers are going to have to work hard to maintain speed and precision. With weather forecasted in the 80-degree range every day of the event, they’ll also have to work just as hard to stay hydrated while driving.
Some stages, like the Top Gun North Short through Shawnee State Forest, have been developed since the Southern Ohio Forest Rally became an ARA-sanctioned event in 2019. Most SOFR stages have roots in a long history of Ohio rally racing; the state has hosted over 30 national championship rally stage events, with some tracing back to the late 1960s. Many of those stages live on in the contemporary Southern Ohio Forest Rally.
The 2023 Southern Ohio Forest Rally won’t only be a celebration of Ohio rallying history, however: The race weekend also sees the 50th anniversary of championship stage rallying in the United States, with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) having sanctioned the Pro Rally National Championship in 1973. Look for special events and guests around town to mark the occasion.
Quotes from the drivers:
Brandon Semenuk: “With a short gap between rallies, we’ve got lots of work to do in preparation for SOFR! This is a very tricky event and last year didn’t go to plan. I’m hoping to learn from my mistakes and bring some extra speed this time around.”
“Southern Ohio always provides some of the trickiest stages of the year. Windy, technical sections with sharp jumps make for a real challenge. We’ve got some work to do to make up for our result last year!”
Name: Southern Ohio Forest Rally
DATES: 6/08/23 – 6/10/23
HOST TOWNS: Chillicothe, OH. Portsmouth, OH.
TIME ZONE: Eastern Daylight Time (UTC -4)
NEAREST INTL AIRPORT: Rickenbacker Intl Airport (LCK)
WEATHER: Partly Cloudy. Low 54F. High 80F. Winds N, NE around 7 mph. 20% chance of rain, 30% chance on Saturday.
Sunset 8:57pm EDT.
2023 Southern Ohio Forest Rally Stage Info
Total distance: 257.6 miles
Number of stages: 19
Stage distance: 123.3 miles
Stage surfaces: Gravel with some paced sections.
Longest stage: 13.35 miles (SS4 & 8 Top Gun N Short)
Highest Elevation: 1,246 ft
Service Park: Portsmouth West HS & Vinton County HS
Official Start: 7:46pm on Thursday
Superspecials: 1 (SS1)
Stages in darkness: None