by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Jason Swoboda (1); Rally America (2)

The Open and Super Production classes might attract some of the most unique and interesting builds in the Rally America National Championship, but it’s the Open Light class that has been producing some of the most exciting battles of the 2018 season.

And four races into the championship, the team of Dave and Michael Brown just might have a chance at stealing the overall title.

The Browns continued their consistent 2018 form at the Southern Ohio Forest Rally with another class victory and overall podium, placing third overall with a time of 2:08:30.0. It marked the second straight year that three different classes made it onto the overall SOFR podium, but the first time an Open Light car had done so. And once again, it was consistent times and clean driving that enabled them to get there.

After kicking off the rally with the 10th-best time overall on the Ohio Forestry Sawmill stage, Brown/Brown already climbed to fifth by Stage 3 and sat in a comfortable fourth at the end of the first day. They were one of many teams that stood to benefit from Joseph Burke and Ole Holter’s misfortune on Saturday morning, as Burke’s DNF enabled the family duo to climb the additional overall spot.

With the Browns leading the class from start to finish in the rally, the battle for second in class came down to a number of drivers who not only came in near the top of the Open Light standings, but in the top 10 of the overall National Championship as well. In fact, six of the top 11 overall finishers at SOFR were Open Light drivers, and second through sixth were separated by under three minutes. In the end, it would be Nathan Usher/Marianna Langosch and Jon Kramer/Zachary Jacques completing the podium, separated from one another by only 36.3 seconds.

In one of the most impressive stories of the weekend, former Columbus Blue Jackets forward Martin Spanhel not only finished his first rally in the United States, but placed in the overall top 15 in his Open Light car. Spanhel, who scored the unofficial first goal in franchise history in a preseason game, posted a time of 2:22:22.9 alongside co-driver Zuzana Lieskovcova in his first experience in a full gravel rally. When all was said and done, 13 of the 16 Open Light entries to take to the stages managed to complete the event, with Dylan Helferich, Fabio Costa, and Caner Yildiz the three DNFs.

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

  1. Dave Brown/Michael Brown, 2:08:30.0 (3rd overall)
  2. Nathan Usher/Marianna Langosch, 2:14:02.5 (6th overall)
  3. Jon Kramer/Zachary Jacques, 2:14:38.8 (8th overall)
  4. Arek Bialobrzeski/Aris Mantopoulos, 2:14:54.0 (9th overall)
  5. Charles Surdyke/Colin Vickman, 2:16:10.9 (10th overall)
  6. Jimmy Pelizzari/Kate Stevens, 2:16:53.9 (11th overall)
  7. Martin Spanhel/Zuzana Lieskovcova, 2:22:22.9 (15th overall)
  8. Kevin Allen, Elizabeth Cordara, 2:26:22.9 (19th overall)
  9. Brian Battocchi/Neil Schafer, 2:34:28.7 (27th overall)
  10. Michael Miller/Angelica Miller, 2:36:31.1 (29th overall)
  11. Geoff Weide/Derric Throne, 2:45:41.0 (37th overall)
  12. Michael Engle Jr./Brian Arpke, 2:54:09.3 (40th overall)
  13. Meredith Pritchard/Elizabeth Dziubanski, 3:02:00.2 (43rd overall)