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Semenuk Sucessful on Day One of Olympus

Updated: Apr 23

Shelton, WA ~ Subaru Motorsports USA driver Brandon Semenuk leads the field at the end of an action-filled first day of rallying at the 2024 Subaru of Puyallup Olympus Rally presented by DirtFish.


Alongside co-driver Keaton Williams, the reigning ARA Champion held the lead the whole day through 94 stage miles behind the wheel of his 2024 Subaru WRX ARA24.


The opening day of the third round of the American Rally Association National Championship started off much drier than Olympus Rallys past, and while stages are usually slimy and slick this morning drivers found dry roads, and sometimes struggled with dust hanging in the air from cars ahead of them in the start order.


While the skies eventually opened up for the final two stages, the first six were run in the dry, giving many drivers an Olympus experience they’ve rarely ever had.


Despite the different conditions, many of the things Olympus is known for stayed the same. For instance, the highly technical logging trail-based stages have always been known as car killers, and today was no exception with 31 cars retiring over the course of Saturday’s racing.


Also staying the same is Olympus’ well-known tests of driver fatigue, as the infamously long Nahwatzel stage was over 20 miles in this year's competition, running twice back-to-back to cap off Saturday’s racing.


And of course, staying the same thus far has been Semenuk’s dominance on the twisty stages of Olympus. Starting first on the road, the lone Subaru Motorsports USA entry took an early lead and carried it throughout the rest of the day, managing to build a considerable gap of +8m28.4s over the rest of the field across the eight stages that ran on Saturday.


“It’s definitely a lot drier this year, it’s super loose on stages.” Semenuk said. “There’s lots of logged bits this year, so even familiar stages this year look a lot different, so it’s not what you expect like organic and stuff, it’s a lot of heavy gravel.


“Because of the bigger rock in the roads this year, it feels like the car is always kind of vibrating and smashing on top of it, it’s definitely rougher on the car.”


While Semenuk has built up a considerable gap, the battle behind him has been contested intensely throughout all eight stages of the rally.

Currently Javier Olivares holds second place overall, and first in the combined LN4 class in his Ford Fiesta Rally3, but he has been battling all day with his own back-up car being driven by Nick Allen.


“We had some overheating issues during testing, and we didn’t want to chance it,” Allen explained. “Javier was nice enough to lend us his spare Rally3. It’s an almost identical car so we were able to get in it and within a couple miles we felt like we were right back at home.”


While the two have been within 20 seconds of each other the whole day, Olivares and co-driver KJ Miller had the better time on five of the eight stages, with Allen and co-driver Stefan Trajkov taking the remainder.


“This car is really good on these stages,” said Olivares. “It’s really kind of technical, but I’m really enjoying these cars.


“We’re on the same setup as what we left 100 Acre Wood with and it feels really good, so we’re happy with the car right now.”


While its Olivares and Allen in first and second respectively for the LN4 class, the podium at the end of the first day is rounded out with Jordan Patrick O’Connoll and Makisa Upton who end the day just 6.9s ahead of fourth place Andy Didorosi and co-driver Eric Frentress.


Though they’re currently second and third overall, the Ferrari V8-powered Subaru of Sam Albert and Krista Skucas battled hard with the plucky M-Sport-built turbo three-cylinders of Allen and Olivares, but a flat tire leading to a destroyed brake system on the drivers rear of the car during SS5 lost Albert and Skucas five positions before heading into the first service.


“I don’t know what it was,” Albert said at service, “but it was a big flat, it was a big explosion, you can see the left rear of the car is torn to pieces.”


Thankfully, the fan-favorite car was able to make it back on stage after service and Albert was able to get back to pushing back through the field.


Sitting just outside the overall podium by 1m30.3s is RC2 entrant John Coyne and co-driver Aris Mantopoulus. The duo have held solid consistent pace over the course of the day in their Hyundai i20 Rally2, and find themselves just one minute off the pace of a podium finish tomorrow.


Rounding out the top five is the Open 2WD leader Derik Nelson in his turbocharged Subaru BRZ. Nelson and co-driver Micheal Hordijk have been as impressive as always, keeping the rear-wheel-drive Subaru in fifth overall most of the day, despite their lack of all-wheel-drive traction!

While they sit first in Open 2WD, Nelson and Hordijk need to keep their noses clean as they fight off class competitors Michael Hooper and co-driver Claudia Barbera. The Lexus

IS350-driving O2WD stalwarts have held a comfortable second place most of the day, and while they now sit +6m42.7s to the BRZ, just one mistake could allow Hooper to take the top spot.


O2WD favorites Seamus Burke and Martin Brady in the V8-powered Mk2 Escort unfortunately met an end to their rally with a failed oil pump before they even made it to a stage. Similarly, Ryan Booth and Nick Dobbs had a mechanical failure on SS3 that caused them to retire from day one of the event.


Finally, in the L2WD class, Richo Healey and Michelle Miller find themselves leading the rally after the first day in their white and pink Lexus IS250.


Roberto Yglesias and Sara Nonack led the first half of the day in their Ford Fiesta ST, but after an axle shaft failure on SS6, the pair had to be towed back to service to make repairs before filing for re-entry to the rally, allowing Healey to take the lead.


Behind them, a tight battle has been raging all day between the Ford Fiesta STs Sean Donnelly and Mark Tabor, as they trade positions back and forth on the podium.


Over the course of the eight stages, they have swapped positions at the end of six, and currently find themselves both sitting on the podium with Donnelly and co-driver Zach Pfiel taking second place, while Tabor and co-driver Katheryn Hansen sit in third with a deficit of


One notable car that was unable to finish Day one was the 2013 Subaru “Chimera” BRZ of Matthew Dickinson and Chris Kremer. After going from a bare shell of a car less that two weeks ago to a fully built O4WD BRZ starting its first rally this morning, Dickinson and Kremer hit the stages for the first time in the car this weekend and were immediately able to hold top-ten pace despite new car teething issues.


“[The first few stages were] good, there’s a little bit of stuff to do with the car, the steering is being a little clunky and seizing, but it was fast, it was real fast. We take off from the starting line and it just goes!”


Unfortunately Dickinson was unable to finish day one, but the Chimera BRZ will certainly be a favorite in future events.

 Photos by Chris Daley, Peng Du, Toua Herr and Dan Pilling

Top 10 National After Olympus Day 1

1.     Brandon Semenuk (Subaru) 1h24m3.7s

2.     Javier Olivares (Ford) +8m28.4s

3.     Nick Allen (Ford) +8m47.7s

4.     John Coyne (Hyundai) +10m18.0s

5.     Derik Nelson (Subaru) +10m55.4s

6.     Sam Albert (Subaru) +16m25.5s

7.     Michael Hooper (Lexus) +17m38.1s

8.     Jordan Patrick O'Connell (Subaru) +23m49.5s

9.     Andy Didorosi (Subaru) +23m56.4s

10.  Richo Healey (Lexus) +24m9.1s


In the regional rally, the duo of Andy Miller and Shaun Tracy have run away with the competition so far in their EZ30R swapped NA4WD 2005 Subaru STI. The two have led every stage of the rally so far and have opened up a 2m17.2s gap over the second place car of Steven Redd.


Redd and co-driver Dylan Hooker spent much of the morning getting re-acclimated to their O4WD 2007 wide-body Subaru STI build, but seem to have done so with an impressive performance on day one of the rally.


“I’m learning how to drive the car again,” Redd said after the third stage. “The power is pretty gnarly, and I’ve had to change my braking zones and how I set the car up for corners.”


Spending all day on the podium, Redd’s main competition for the first six stages was then-second-place Todd Hartmann and Shawn Callahan in their 2010 Ford Fiesta Proto.

Hartmann held a semi-comfortable one-minute lead by the end of SS6, but did not make it to the start of SS7, allowing Redd to take second.


Redd leads the small class of Regional O4WD by +14m38.2s over second place Chris Sutton, who had a 10 minute penalty due to not following the transit route, while the team of Kenny and Kaylee Copeland sit third in class.


Third in regional overall and second in NA4WD is the team of Daniel Sperry and Zachary Thomas in their 2002 Subaru Impreza.


“Today started out pretty warm, a little dry out there, we were just trying to find ourselves again getting the pace down,” Sperry said of his day. “Once we got that into a good area, we just kinda kept cruising every stage running like that.


“Tomorrow it looks like if everything is as good as the car is right now we’re just gonna keep doing the same thing, it seems to be working!”


Rounding out the NA4WD top three and landing fifth overall at the end of the day is the Subaru Impreza of Cooper Anderson and Ethan Curtis, who fought back from ninth place at the end of SS2.


First in the highly competitive O2WD class and fourth overall is Dave Clark and his 1999 BMW M3. Known for his massive skill behind the wheel and ability to hold a beautiful sideways angle around just about any corner, it’s no surprise to see Clark and co-driver Jamie Willetts so high in the finishing order.

Notably, the duo even managed the second fastest time on SS8, the second running of the 20-mile Nahwatzel, just 7.5 seconds off the time of Andy Miller.


Right behind Clark all day was the 2016 Scion FR-S of Jason Bailey and Jordan Rock. Bailey ended SS6 just 13.6 seconds off of Clark, but dropped back over three minutes over the course of SS7-8 on the long Nahwatzel stage.


John Hill and Danny Norkus sit third in O2WD, as their beautiful blue 1968 MkI Ford Escort navigates the tricky Olympus stages with ease.


In the Limited 4WD class, Chris and Lori O’Driscoll lead in their 2003 Subaru WRX. Phil Clarke and Ed Flaisig started off the day leading in L4WD in their own 2003 WRX, but the O’Driscoll’s kept close and managed to take the lead on the third stage today, and have since grown their lead to a somewhat comfortable 59.2 seconds as thy head into day two. Jonathan Myers and Mack Golos currently complete the L4WD top three.


Finally, in the L2WD class, the day started out with the 1982 Toyota Corolla of Jeff Castro and Ann Hanson leading the pack, but slowly as the day progressed they dropped back to third overall.


Jonathan Compton and Brie Moore currently lead as we look ahead to day two of the rally in their 2003 Ford Focus, having taken the lead on SS3 and holding it ever since.


Casen Pederson in a Lexus IS350 appeared to be in good contention to battle for the lead in his first ever rally as he climbed as high as second with a gap of less than seven seconds separating himself and Compton, but a retirement on SS6 meant second in the class belonged to Chris Miller and Crystina Coats in their 2015 Scion FR-S.


There’s still plenty more action left, and nearly 60 stage miles to go in the 2024 Puyallup Subaru Olympus Rally presented by DirtFish, so make sure to tune in tomorrow to make sure you don’t miss any of the action!


Top 10 Regional After Olympus Day 1

1.     Andy Miller (Subaru) 1h36m27.6s

2.     Steven Redd (Subaru) +2m17.2s

3.     Daniel Sperry (Subaru) +3m9.9s

4.     Dave Clark (BMW) +3m39.3s

5.     Cooper Anderson (Subaru) +3m58.1s

6.     Eric Bailey (Scion) +7m5.1s

7.     Chris O’Driscoll (Subaru) +7m42.6s

8.     John Hill (Ford) +8m22.5s

9.     Phil Clarke (Subaru) +8m41.8s

10.  Doug Heredos (BMW) +10m24.2s

~Mason Runkel for ARA

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