Williams Wins RC2, Pelizzari Takes East Regional
Atlanta, Mich. ~ Through rain, sleet and snow, and even under a full blue sky on Saturday, Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk opened up his defense of the American Rally Association’s overall national championship with an impressive win on Saturday.
With rain and snow earlier in the week, and freezing temperatures on Friday, Saturday opened up to blue skies. This made for a challenging rally overall with icy roads moving towards slush throughout the day and then back to ice as sun began to set. Overall, and sans studded tires, it was still a much faster rally than the 2022 ice-laden event offered up. Last year’s average speed of the top three driver’s was 38 MPH. Semenuk’s average speed this year was 59, with the top five cars all over the 50 MPH threshold.
Semenuk was flawless in the opening round of the 2023 Green APU National Rally Championship. He won all 15 stages, including the power stage, and he ran all of them clean. While he was fastest; his challengers all found themselves in enough trouble on at least one stage of the rally where they gave up multiple minutes to the defending champ. For Semenuk, he was able to close out the win after getting a late DNF while leading in 2022.
“Yeah, redemption big time. That's the first thing we said when we came up to the last stage ‘this is what we were supposed to get last year’,” said Semenuk. “I thought the last stage was going to be treacherous and honestly it was pretty good. “It didn't quite freeze up entirely and there's some snow we were able to use, and yeah, we enjoyed the drive.”
Tom Williams’ first crack at Sno*Drift was a success, as Williams was the closest to taking a stage win from Semenuk (.3 of a second on stage five). He would close out the rally second overall and first in RC2. He lost a majority of his time, nearly nine minutes, when he went off on SS11. That also meant he had to put it all on the line on the final stage to overtake Kyle Tilley for the runner-up spot.
“It's been a rollercoaster of a rally,” said Williams. “This morning we had an eight-minute lead in RC2, and I think we were a minute behind Brandon. As usual, I made it entertaining for myself as it got really slippery in the second half of Saturday. I threw it in a massive snowbank three feet of snow with about 1,000 spectators watching and lost about eight minutes there. That put me down to fourth, but I was able to get that time back and then got around Kyle on the final stage.”
For the most part, Tilley ran a clean rally, with the exception of an issue on SS5 Friday night, and a missed turn on the final stage on Saturday. With a string of red caution tape dangling from the roof of his Hyundai i20N, he returned to Parc Ferme third overall and second in RC2.
“Yeah, we threw it at the scenery a little bit on the last stage trying to stay ahead of (Williams), but we dropped probably 45-seconds there doing that, so that's a silly boy on my part but still learning anyway,” said Tilley.
Green APU’s Patrick Gruszka put together a strong weekend at Sno*Drift, finishing fourth overall and third in RC2. Gruszka was behind the wheel of his new 2019 Hyundai i20 for the first time, and kept the car clear of danger over the 15 stages
It took Williams a bit to find his pace in his 2022 Ford Fiesta.
Matt Dickinson would round out the top five of the overall national class. In just his second career start at a winter rally, he made several saves to keep the car on the road on his way to winning the Limited 4wd class over Vincent Trudel.
Taylor Hoevenaar had one of the more eye-catching cars at Sno*Drift, but he also caught a lot of attention for winning the NA4WD class in his 1999 Subaru Forester. 2022 Sno*Drift national winner Mark Piatkowski finished second after transmission issues sent him to an early end on Friday.
ARA East Regional
Jimmy Pelizzari’s winning streak at Sno*Drift was snapped in 2022, but he may have started a new streak by winning the ARA East Regional on Saturday.
Pelizzari came into day two behind Jon Kramer for the overall, but Kramer lost nearly ten minutes on SS7 on Saturday, the first stage of the day. Pelizzari was able to run a smooth rally the rest of the way, taking the overall and Open 4WD win.
“It was great,” said Pelizzari. “It was an awesome rally. The conditions changed a lot, but we had some issues with the car, and we had some issues on stage. But it came together.”
Standing next to his car in Parc Ferme, Tim Michel was shocked to hear of his second overall finish. It took one look at the front of his 1996 Audi A4 Quattro to see why. On the final stage, Michel found himself going off stage and center punching a tree. He was able to refire and finish the rally and won the NA4WD regional title, with Sam Jacques in second and Dylan Gondyke in third.
Dave Matheson edged out a 35-second win over Tom Mayer in Limited 4WD. Chris and Sara Nonack took home Limited 2WD honors, and Scott and Gavin James won Open 2WD.
The 2023 Green APU National Rally Championship will feature eight national rounds, starting in February and finishing in October at the Lake Superior Performance Rally. The ARA also offers up three regional championships across 21 events. To learn more about the ARA, go to https://www.americanrallyassociation.org.