McKenna stars, Semenuk wins 100 Acre

Barry McKenna was frustrated by the 100 Acre Wood Rally once again, while ice cool Semenuk makes it two from two

Semenuk Saturday 100AW

On the face of it, it was business as usual for Brandon Semenuk and Keaton Williams in Missouri on Saturday night. The Subaru WRX pair arrived back into Salem with almost two minutes in hand over their nearest 100 Acre Wood rival. Switching the #1 car off at the finish, the driver’s door was opened and the Canadian was greeted by the team.

Semenuk blew out his cheeks, before offering the same smile he’s delivered since October 2022 – the start of an 11-round winning streak. But it hadn’t been straightforward. Anything but.

A spirited, rapid drive from a returning Barry McKenna kept Semenuk very much on his toes. A Friday puncture ruined the opening day for the Ford Fiesta WRC star, but the accepted wisdom was that second day’s narrower gravel stages would offer McKenna the perfect chance to bridge the 33-second divide between the top two.

“Trouble is,” said the one-time winner of 100 Acre Wood, “every time I bite this rally, it bites me back harder.”


McKenna missed a 100 Acre win by six seconds last year. It looked like he might make up for tha before punctures left him second

Barry took a nibble on Saturday’s opener, lifting 3.1s out of Semenuk, only for the Salem-based event to take a significant chunk out of his aspirations on the very next test.

“When I started to push, things started going wrong,” he told DirtFish. “I stalled going into the virtual chicane and it took a while to get the car going again. Then I drove with a bit of anger, we had a spin and then got a puncture and had to drive the last two miles like that. We changed the tire after the stage and I was ready to go again in the third [stage]. As soon as we started, I could feel the steering wasn’t right – then we had another stupid spin.”

The gap had mushroomed to 1m14.6s by the time the cars arrived in service.

“We’ll keep at it,” said McKenna, with a touch of optimism. “It’s only a puncture [for Semenuk].”

That puncture never came for the champion.

What did come was another maximum points haul in the pursuit of a third ARA title. The Subaru star was happier with his performance on the second day.

“It was a little more on the edge than I wanted it to be yesterday,” the winner told DirtFish. “I had a good rhythm today, I enjoyed the stages. Maybe I just needed a warm-up. It was a good battle with Barry [McKenna] and good having Travis [Pastrana] around.

“Barry was definitely the fastest driver this week, he probably got the majority of the stage wins and we were there or thereabouts. He was only a second or two seconds [ahead] which was basically nothing, but he had the edge on us. But we had the consistency, he made a couple of mistakes and that gave us the window to bring it home.


Pastrana endured a frustrating event, making the podium but lacking the pace of his winning team-mate Semenuk

“I’m really happy with my drive, I don’t feel I could have done much more.”

McKenna was frustrated at the finish. Semenuk was right, the Fiesta driver had edged him seven to six in the number of fastest times. But Barry had come to Missouri with one result in mind.

“Silly mistakes all day,” he said. “Punctures, half-spins, I was short on seat time in the car. The pace was fantastic on the fast stages, but today it just wasn’t so good. Look, it’s all positive. When I started this rally I was thinking about doing Ohio, but it just sucks you back in and I’m already thinking of ways I could fit another one in before then.”

Travis Pastrana ended the event third, 2m40s down on his team-mate and event winner Semenuk. The six-time champion was frustrated with his two days in Missouri.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting old,” he said. “Maybe it’s being 40. I’m driving as fast as I can comfortably and I’m going to have to take risks. Coming out here to get my butt kicked week in week out is not what I want to do.”

Micah Nickelson

Micah Nickelson delivered a fine O2WD win aboard his Volkswagen Golf

Hyundai driver Pat Gruszka was at his consistent best to take a lonely fourth place and class win as first Rally2 car home.

“Could you ask Tom to come back?” he said at the finish, referring to Briton Tom Williams, who he spent much of last season racing. “It has been a fairly lonely event. We did what we could and it was nice to be back in the car.”

Pat Moro and his sensational sounding V8-engined Chevrolet Sonic took fifth place by 30 seconds from Ele Bardha. The Subaru driver inflicted a rare L4WD defeat on Javi Olivares and his Ford Fiesta Rally3. John Coyne and his star driver co-driver Josh McErlean were eighth in another i20 Rally2 while Micah Nickelson was a worthy O2WD in ninth overall. The Volkswagen Golf started the day just nine seconds ahead of Seamus Burke’s V8 Escort. The battle ended early when Burke went off the road on the morning’s final stage. There was more bad news for Irish fans, when Paul Rowley retired his Fiesta S2000 Turbo on SS12.

Timothy Rooney rounded out the top 10 in his Subaru, with Chris Cyr (Ford Fiesta ST) unbeatable in L2WD. Chinese driver Chu Hoowen landed a NA4WD class success in his Impreza.

Todd Hartmann maintained his advantage at the top of the Regional field, the Ford Fiesta Proto driver turned in a superb drive to score the O4WD win in Regional as well. Right behind Hartmann in the overall race, Ryan Rethy’s consolation was a NA4WD win in his Subaru. It was another Impreza in the hands of James Randall that took the L4WD award. Honda Civic driver Weston Davis and BMW man Matthew Nykanen took the L2WD and O2WD silverware respectively.


Watching Matthew Nykanen's super-sideways BMW was one of the highlights of the event