Pastrana chasing 2023 ARA return

Subaru stars Travis Pastrana and Brandon Semenuk hope to go head-to-head again on an ARA rally this year

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Nobody wants a fight more than Brandon Semenuk. It’s what he’s about. It’s a competitive streak that made him America’s best rally driver last year. It’s the same one that has led to countless mountain bike titles.

Beating the best of the rest is what gets athletes like Subaru’s Canadian star out of bed in the morning.

The champ could have been forgiven the odd lie-in this year.

Not so much for the rest of the season. Not if the man he deposed as American champion, Travis Pastrana, gets his way.

Pastrana stepped away from his full-time commitment to the American Rally Association National championship with Subaru this year, but he’s ready to be back before the end of 2023.

“I’m hoping to be back for a round before the end of the year,” Pastrana told DirtFish. “I had hoped to be out for Southern Ohio, but we were busy with Nitro Rallycross.

“The focus for me this year has been with Nitro Rallycross and getting it off the ground, that’s the big push. At the same time, I wanted to spend more time with my family, which has been great.”

Pastrana was present for a day in Southern Ohio Forest Rally earlier this month, helping Green APU ARA celebrate 50 years of championship rallying in America.

“I wasn’t going to miss this thing,” he said. “It’s great to be here with all of these former champions and, like I said, I’m definitely going to push to get out and drive one of the [remaining] events.”

That’s music to Semenuk’s ears.

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So far this year, his title defense has been perfect: he’s won five from five. Only on the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood did he have a genuine fight on his hands, when Barry McKenna brought his similarly spectacular Open class Ford Fiesta WRC. Semenuk won by 6.8 seconds over the Irishman.

Across the other four rounds, as the sole Open class competitor, Semenuk’s average winning margin over the nearest Rally2 car has been a touch over ten minutes.

“Look at that battle with Barry,” Semenuk told DirtFish. “We were within ten seconds of each other all the time. I wish we had more competition like that.

“Last year, all the time we were trading times with Ken [Block], Travis [Pastrana] and Barry [McKenna] – that’s what I look forward, that’s what I enjoy.

“I would love to see Travis back out again this year.”