- ARA Media
Clean Sweep for Semenuk/Williams, as the Miller/Tracy tandem takes Oregon Regional Honors
Dufur, Ore. ~ The 2023 Oregon Trail Rally has set like the sun behind the snow-peaked Mount Hood that fills up the skyline to the West of Dufur, Ore. The tiny hamlet serves as the host city for the third and final day of Oregon Trail and offers up easy access to nine stages that held a captive audience during round four of the American Rally Association's Green APU National Rally Championship.
As the 2023 ARA season rolls along, Brandon Semenuk is looking for a challenge. He has already conquered rain (Olympus), snow (Sno*Drift), and cold (100 Acre Wood) on his way to a perfect season to date. He continued his battle with the elements in Oregon, including a Saturday filled with extreme heat and a Sunday that brought high winds that could push a rally car around on the high-speed gravel roads.
But Semenuk is also being challenged by perfection this season, and for this one rally, he was clean from start to finish. Along with his trusted co-driver Keaton Williams, Semenuk clicked off wins on all 19 of the fast, challenging stages that Oregon Trail offered up, including a heater on the power stage to end the rally. Wit his most convincing win of the season (8m 52sec), Semenuk stretched his winning streak to five, including his championship-clinching win at LSPR last October.
"It's always a pleasure to be racing on the West Coast, close to home, and this is a special rally with lots of unique stages and landmarks," said Semenuk. "Overall, it was pretty fun. It was a little more treacherous than the last few years, with the really hot temperatures making everything loose and the roads getting a little bit rougher. But the car was flawless, and we stayed out of trouble and felt pretty good about the drive overall."
Saturday saw an excellent back-and-forth effort from Sam Albert and Jeff Seehorn, but that see-saw stopped bouncing after Albert's Ferrari-powered Subaru blew a rear differential on the first stage. Seehorn matched the pace notes from co-driver Aris Mantapolous perfectly as he drove his Subaru WRX STi to his second straight runner-up finish (Olympus Rally). However, he wasn't without pause on Sunday, driving much of the day without sufficient boost.
"On the second leg (Sunday), on Boyd, after going down the hill, I had one of my boost elbows split in half. So, we had no boost, so we had to duct tape it to make it through that whole leg. We came back to service and tried to patch it, which held on for about three miles. So, we went back to half boost and had half boost for half the day today."
Javier Olivares' move to a national schedule in 2023 continued to pay off at Oregon. With up-and-coming co-driver KJ Miller in the right season, Olivares brought home his first overall national ARA win while claiming first in LN4.
"It's a little surreal," said Olivares. "We had some help from the open guys dropping off (Albert and Plsek), and we were there to pick up the pieces. It was a good competition all weekend. We managed it all day today, so it was a little Sunday drive.
For the second straight rally, Lia Block went on a final-day tear. Block and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino were on a mission on Sunday, moving up several spots to finish fourth overall. The duo also won the Open 2WD class with the Sunday charge, getting past fellow podium finishers Dave Clark/Jamie Willets and Nick Allen/Matt James in the process.
Olivares' win in LN4 was his third straight podium in 2023 and moved him into second overall in the LN4 championship. Matt Dickinson and Chris Kramer bounced back in Oregon after a DNF in Olympus to finish second and remain in control of the LN4 points. Jacob and Michael Despain kept a very competitive pace with Dickinson, finishing third.
The ARA West Regional was another showcase for the up-and-coming Andy Miller and Shaun Tracy.
Coming off their first overall win at the Olympus Rally last month, Miller and Tracy stretched a 1m 30s lead coming into Sunday and used a primarily clean day to hold on to a 1m 2s win over Todd Hartman and Shawn Callahan. After working through issues on Saturday, Miller and Tracy were closer to issue-free on Sunday, despite rolling into Parc Ferme with a cracked windshield.
"We took that the momentum out of Olympus and kind of brought it into here," said Miller. "We had our ups and downs, but somehow, we pulled it off. We had a fuel pressure regulator go out yesterday, and that was a big one. We just had a couple of hiccups today, but I'm just glad to be done. The car was starting to lose power, and I think the alternator might be dying as we limped in on nine volts."
Todd Hartman and Shawn Callahan have consistently increased their pace over the past few rallies as they become more comfortable with their 2010 Ford Fiesta. They grabbed four stage wins, including three on Sunday (SS11, SS16, and SS17) for their first overall ARA podium and their first O4WD victory.
The tightest finish of the weekend came from the regional 02WD class, where Chris Miller and Crystina Coats hung by a mere 2/10ths of a second over Julien Sebot and Steven Harrell. Miller held a 23.1-sec lead heading into SS18, but a tire issue opened the door for Sebot to close the gap. Miller would hold on for third overall, and the class won with Sebot in fourth and second in 02WD.
Tim Wickberg and Matthew Trott took the overall lead in L2WD on stage three and never looked back to a 3m 13sec win, his second straight win at Oregon Trail.
Phil Clarke and Ed Flaisig put together a complete rally in Oregon, stretching a 29.1-second lead in L4WD heading into Sunday to a 51sec win after 18 stages.
The ARA's Green APU National Rally Championship heads back East in June. The Southern Ohio Forest Rally is scheduled for June 8-10 and will be run on tight, technical stages around the Chillicothe and Portsmouth, Ohio communities.