by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Jason Swoboda

From the moment Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak showed up for their first start in the 2018 Rally America National Championship with their brand new Ford Fiesta, it was clear that the Fetela Rally Team meant business.

Now, after back-to-back overall victories at Rally in the 100 Acre Wood and Southern Ohio Forest Rally, they’re one of the favorites for this year’s title.

Fetela’s eight stage victories were second-most of any driver in the rally, and included many of the big ones: the event-opening Ohio Forestry Sawmill stage, a win apiece on each direction at Irish Ridge, the aptly-named Outdoor Drama, and Saturday’s super special stage at the Ross County Fairgrounds. His final time of 2:03:08.2 enabled him to win the event by more than four minutes over his closest challengers, Super Production winners Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn.

But in a battle of attrition against both the stages and the elements, it was Fetela’s advantage over the next-best Open class entry that was perhaps the most surprising. Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski were the second-fastest Open crew when all was said and done, but they placed 12th overall—more than 15 minutes behind the rally winners.

In fact, three of the first four scheduled drivers on the roads—Joseph Burke, Paulo Ferreira, and defending SOFR and national champion Arkadiusz Gruszka—were among the five Open class drivers who failed to finish the event entirely.

Burke’s DNF was perhaps the most heartbreaking of all. In his second event back after a lengthy sabbatical from rallying, he won 10 of the 15 stages on Friday to assert an 18.1-second overnight lead on Fetela. As if the challenging forest roads weren’t enough, he was also running with a broken helmet, making it more difficult for him to hear co-driver Ole Holter. But the wet weather on Saturday proved treacherous, and he nosed into a tree on the first stage of the day, taking on terminal damage.

Ferreira faced overheating issues after a cooling line popped out of place, but continued to compete until shearing a right rear axle later on Friday. Gruszka high-centered on the second stage of the rally and took his second DNF of the season. Josh Jacquot and Eamon Fallon were the other two Open class DNFs.

Open class finishers in this year's Southern Ohio Forest Rally were as follows:

  1. Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak, 2:03:08.3 (1st overall)
  2. Henry Krolikowski/Cynthia Krolikowski, 2:18:31.7 (12th overall)
  3. Jesse Yuvali/Cengiz Nomer, 2:23:47.3 (16th overall)
  4. Brian Ballinger/Adam Becker, 2:34:28.7 (26th overall)
  5. David Yein/Daniel Hsieh, 2:41:53.1 (35th overall)
  6. Bradley Hayosh/Nick Nouhan, 3:07:06.9 (44th overall)