Reigning Green APU American Rally Association National champion Brandon Semenuk leads Southern Ohio Forest Rally by just half a second after Thursday night’s super-special stage.
At less than a mile, the Yoctangee Street Stage was a very short and sharp start to the rally, but its asphalt surface and challenging jump at the end made it a tricky opening to the event.
Semenuk, the winner of all four rounds so far this season, has never won in Ohio – nor, surprisingly, has his Subaru Motorsports USA team – but the Canadian ace set the pace over the opening stage to carry the lead into Friday’s gravel action.
However Paul Rowley, starting his first ARA event since the 100 Acre Wood Rally back in March, was close behind him in his Ford Fiesta R5+, and over 1.2 seconds clear of Patrick Moro who’s third overnight in his Chevrolet Sonic.
Returning to the ARA after his final stage crash on Olympus Rally, Tom Williams is fourth after SS1 – 2.3s off Semenuk’s lead but 1.9s up on fellow series returnee Patrick Gruszka who’s fifth overnight in his Hyundai i2o R5.
Micah Nickelson tops the O2WD runners in his Volkswagen Golf ahead of Seamus Burke and 2020 National champion Barry McKenna, while Martin Spanhel leads the Regional Rally in his Mitsubishi.
Friday’s gravel stages begin at 11.23am local time, with eight stages lying in wait before a further 11 on Saturday’s final day.