Barry McKenna has ended his title-winning American Rally Association National season in perfect fashion with a 30.9-second victory on the DirtFish Olympus Rally ahead of Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk.
Starting the final day on Sunday 46s to the good, McKenna had to push to keep Semenuk behind him, but not too hard to jeopardize his result. The Irishman found the balance perfectly, and swept to his third victory of the season after wins on the Sno* Drift and Southern Ohio Forest events.
With McKenna’s title having been clinched on last month’s Show-Me Rally, he, Semenuk and Travis Pastrana were free to have a fight for the win without having to worry about the championship picture.
The trio were closely-matched all weekend, but the battle for position was over before it had truly begun. On SS2, McKenna streaked clear on what was a difficult test for the Subaru team. Semenuk had chipped his 24.8s deficit down to 18.2s before Saturday’s penultimate stage, but an off-road moment cost him dear and lost him over 20s.
Sunday was meant to comprise six stages but instead was slashed to three, with both the Cougar Mountain and Out Windy tests canceled due to patches of thick snow and flood damage both on the stages themselves and the transit sections between them and service making them too dangerous to compete on.
It was therefore arranged for the remaining Nahwatzel test to be run three times instead of twice, with a service halt after each pass. Pastrana was quickest the first time through but team-mate Semenuk pipped him on the second running, closing to within 44.2s of McKenna’s lead.
But with one stage to go it was too little too late. Semenuk put down an incredibly strong time on the third and final pass of Nahwatzel – his sixth stage win from 11 in the rally – to slash McKenna’s advantage by 13.3s, but it wasn’t enough to deny the new champion the rally win.
Pastrana ended up 41.1s down on his team-mate and 1m12s adrift of McKenna’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo in third position.
“I think today couldn’t have went any better,” McKenna told DirtFish at the finish.
“We didn’t back off too much, we backed off definitely on the last stage, there was a lot of rain that fell on it and we knew we had time to give up just to get it home and get the win but, yeah, everything went to plan this weekend. We didn’t make any silly mistakes and we got it home in one piece.”
Semenuk was however “still pretty stoked” to finish second overall: “We got a podium every rally, a couple of thirds, a second and a first so pretty good. I think we’re in the battle for next year.”
Pastrana was complimentary of his team-mate’s performance but slightly frustrated with his own, particularly on Saturday evening’s stages.
“This was the first time we had this car in the wet and we got a lot of leaks, so we got a lot of fog but we’ll work on that going forward,” Pastrana assessed.
“Definitely today when it dried out we were able to get that first win on the stage, we had a dollar bet with Barry and Brandon so at least I owe them one stage, got the dollar off those guys!
“Really impressed with Brandon all weekend. Of course we knew Brandon was going to do great but next year’s going to be amazing, it’s going to be a really, really great championship.”
Behind the leading trio, Jeff Seehorn secured fourth place ahead of fellow Subari driver Matthew Dickinson, who impressed in deposing John Coyne of fifth early on Sunday.
Dickinson held the spot to the end, finishing 51.1s ahead of Coyne’s sixth-placed Ford Fiesta R5 as Cameron Steely grabbed seventh spot in his Subaru.
ARA Regional winner David Clark took eight place in his BMW M3 ahead of Michael Hooper’s Lexus IS350 and Matt Brassfield’s Impreza.
Final results after SS11
1 McKenna/Jordan (Škoda) 1h35m28.0s
2 Semenuk/Hall (Subaru) +30.9s
3 Pastrana/Gelsomino (Subaru) +1m12.0s
4 Seehorn/James (Subaru) +11m43.4s
5 Dickinson/Ray (Subaru) +13m42.4s
6 Coyne/Dobbs (Ford) +14m33.5s
7 Steely/Holter (Subaru) +15m57.9s
8 Clark/Willetts (BMW) +21m07.0s
9 Hooper/Barbera (Lexus) +23m46.9s
10 Brassfield/Berg (Subaru) +24m48.1s