- Alasdair Lindsay
Semenuk takes ARA National lead with Olympus Rally win
Brandon Semenuk has moved into the lead of the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship thanks to a second consecutive event win as he claimed his first DirtFish Olympus Rally victory.
Subaru Motorsports USA driver Semenuk led from the first stage to the last but only for the final three stages could he breathe easy, as he cantered to a 2m35.2s winning margin over team-mate Travis Pastrana.
Before then he’d resisted early charges from all angles, firstly dealing with a rapid Ken Block on Saturday morning. But the 100 Acre Wood Rally runner-up – who’d lost a likely win after hitting a deer on the final stage there – chucked his new Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC into the trees on Saturday morning.
Reigning champion Pastrana had also been a match for Semenuk’s pace early on but faded on the two passes of Nahwatzel on Saturday evening, leaving Barry McKenna’s recovering Ford Fiesta WRC as Semenuk’s nearest rival.
Sunday morning started strongly for McKenna, as he cut the gap down to 23.5s. But like Block, he too would push a little too hard trying to keep up with the lead Subaru WRX STI, running wide at the very same bridge that had caught Semenuk out on last year’s running of the rally.
With all his main challengers fallen by the wayside, Semenuk put two more stage wins up on the board on Sunday afternoon to wrap up his second win of the year and move into the National points lead.
But Pastrana was much closer to Semenuk’s pace on the final loop of the rally, as a boost issue that had hindered him on the first pass of Wildcat seemingly resolved. He had little to fight for, being too far back from his team-mate to attack and over three minutes up on RC2 class winner Tom Williams.
A hotly contested battle for the FIA-specification class honors had looked to be on the cards as Williams and returning 10-time US champion David Higgins matched each other almost to the tenth of a second for much of Saturday morning.
But when Higgins retired with a broken steering rack on his Citroën DS3 R5, Williams was left alone to score a career-first overall ARA podium, plus his second RC2 class win in a row.
George Plsek also scored a career-best series result with fourth place in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, and Kyle Tilley completed the top five.
Tilley had suffered two punctures on Sunday morning that sent the ERA Motorsports driver down the order, but he quickly recovered to sixth. That became fifth when Matt Dickinson retired on the final stage of the rally, Wildcat.
Dickinson had looked all set to take Limited 4WD class victory after Dave Carapetyan had stuffed his Subaru nose-first into a tree on the first pass of Wildcat, only to go off himself on the repeat pass that ended the rally. Instead, Dylan Murcott down in eighth overall took the LW4D class in his Subaru Impreza.
Up ahead Derek Nelson scored his second Open 2WD victory in his Subaru BRZ, following on from his first class success at Oregon Trail Rally last year.
Try as he might, Seamus Burke wasn’t quite able to keep up with Nelson’s modern machinery and his V6-powered Ford Escort Mk2 finished the rally 1m40.1s behind for second in class and seventh overall.
Dave Clark completed the O2WD podium with his BMW M3, a minute up on Brad Morris’ Mitsubishi Mirage.
Lucy Block, alongside navigator Michelle Miller, rose to 11th by the finish, marking Block’s best ARA finish since the New England Forest Rally back in 2018.
Roberto Yglesias took a comfortable win on paper in the Limited 2WD class with his Ford Fiesta ST, nearly 12 minutes up on Nathan Odle’s Lexus IS250. His dominant run of stage wins from Saturday was curtailed by Nick Allen, who set three fastest times in L2WD over Sunday’s six runs.
Sam Albert scored a dominant ARA Regional win in his WRX STI, beating Josh Gierman by nearly four minutes.
Gierman may have taken the NA4WD win, but in the class it was a question of what might have been for Andy Miller. He finished third overall, 1m42.1s behind Gierman, but had been docked two minutes in penalties for missing a chicane on both passes of Nahwatzel on Saturday.