The consequences of sending it slightly too hard

Southern Ohio Forest Rally's street stage requires a fine balance of attack and self-preservation


Southern Ohio Forest Rally’s signature stage is one of the shortest in the world of rallying. At 0.97 miles, the Yoctangee Park test could be misinterpreted as a Mickey Mouse itinerary filler, unbefitting of what follows.

But the end of this stage is not child’s play. The final stretch leading up to the finish line features one of the biggest jumps in American rallying. It’s a chance to be a hero and capture the spotlight. If you fully commit you can even make up some early time on rivals. But send it a little too hard and it can be rally over – as many have discovered in years past.

Chris Sladek wowed fans by flying a Honda Passport SUV over this jump at full pelt a couple of years ago – but swore he wouldn’t do the same with his Honda Civic this year (and he didn’t). On Thursday night, many drivers dropped a gear and grabbed some brake, merely cresting the rise without achieving any meaningful airtime.

But there are always a few willing to put on a show. And first car onto the stage set a high bar. Brandon Semenuk had promised to be “flat out” and he delivered, peaking at 83 miles per hour as the nose of the Subaru WRX attempted to point directly up at the sky before touching down again.

Others put on a strong tribute act. Enda McCormack and Dave Wallingford sent their RC2 cars at full pelt to the delight of the watching crowds. Then Keenan Phillips came along and upon landing, carved two lines deep into the recently relaid asphalt, ensuring there would be irrefutable evidence he’d kept his foot to the floor.

And then there was Mike Cessna. At first, his jump looked almost graceful – fast but smooth, the car remaining perfectly level as it floated its way past the distance markers. His bravery had been rewarded, taking the lead in the Regional classification out of the gate.


Mike Cessna was flying. Then his M3 E36 crashed down to earth with a bang and a scrape.

Alas, the compression after landing his BMW M3 had lasting consequences: “We busted an oil pan,” explained Cessna’s navigator Jamie Lambert.

“This new aero,” he added, pointing at the rear wing, “kept us a bit too flat on that landing and we slapped the ground pretty hard. It felt amazing; I think we were 83mph when we crested the jump. We sent it as hard as we could go.”

But taking the lead in style had long-term consequences. Whether they even make it out for the next day’s stages, at time of writing, still isn’t clear.

“The vacuum on the engine held the oil in,” explained Lambert. “As soon as we shut the engine off, it just started spraying out.

“Our crew guys are going to be up late.”


Keenan Phillips had already gone full pelt over the Boyd Jump during the previous ARA National round on OTR. It was business as usual in Yoctangee.

It was the same story for Phillips in the end too. Sat alongside the other E36 of Cessna, his BMW also had a cracked oil pan. And the steering rack was pushed out of place. But they have time to fix it before going again on Friday.

Spectacular antics can still be rewarded. Semenuk’s jump was bigger and bolder than team-mate Travis Pastrana’s more controlled effort – and was rewarded with a 0.6s lead. Wallingford’s stratospheric effort meanwhile put him as the quickest non-Subaru, 4.9s off the top spot.

Less than 1% of the rally is complete. But, as those who have cars to fix ahead of Friday’s action will tell you, the real rally does not start tomorrow. The street stage remained as formidable as ever.