Brandon Semenuk opened the door of the DirtFish-liveried Subaru BRZ and paused. Helmeted and ready to slide in, he looked back over his shoulder.
There was a grimace. A definite grimace.
“My least favorite seat in the car…,” he said staring at the place where a co-driver would usually find themself.
Across the way, there was Max McRae. Ready to welcome the two-time ARA champ Semenuk aboard, there was a similar look of apprehension on the Scot’s face as he sat behind the wheel.
Waved through by the marshal, the pair were sent into a fast-and-challenging DirtFish stage at Velocity Invitational last month. Watching on, Max’s dad Alister McRae knew what Semenuk was going through.
“Drivers,” he grinned, “don’t make the best passengers.”
A matter of minutes later and Brandon’s broad smile was back. The perfectly formed BRZ remained perfectly formed. Semenuk and McRae Jr debriefed on what had just happened, with the Canadian completely engaged and feeding back to the rising star.
Catching Big Al and I laughing at his discomfort out of the corner of his eye, he sought revenge.
“Your turn now,” he said, pointing in my direction.
“Seriously, he’s wringing the neck of the thing – you should get in there and take a ride. Max… David’s turn.”
McRae Jr wasted no time.
“Yeah! Get in. Now!”
Fiddling with my phone I offered some lame protest about being busy. Then remembered that, actually, this is very much the best part of my job.
“Maximilius, stretch those belts. I’m coming in.”
After the thick end of a week of having his dad and I winding him up, I was a touch worried the 19-year-old might see this as an opportunity for revenge.
Which he did.
Wringing the neck of the BRZ is about right. Off the line, the Subaru was well and truly sent. Where I thought second would be sensible, we were in fourth. Every time we were turning left, the nose seemed to insist on peering to the right first. And vice-versa.
A couple of decades ago I’d ridden alongside Uncle Colin at a Rally GB test in Whinlatter. The approach to the first square left was exactly the same. The 1995 world champion had launched the Focus off the line, within seconds we were sitting on the limiter in sixth with a square left approaching.
With a considerable distance to the apex, the car was – give or take – 90-degrees the wrong way to the road with Colin and I staring off the side of the mountain at Bassenthwaite Lake.
I shut my eyes. This was not going to end well. Down a handful of gears and a big sling in the other direction and we were through the corner and away up the next straight.
“Did you like that?”
I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing. That made things worse. In a very good way.
Today was going in a similar direction. Literally.
This was a genuine demonstration of what Subaru’s BRZ is capable of. Max took it to very limit of the grip on offer and held it there. Did that surprise me? Not a bit of it. What did surprise me was the sympathy with which he did it. There was always half a turn of lock left and we never bothered the rev limiter once.
“These are school cars,” he said, “they’ve got to be back in class on Monday…”
That said, the commitment to the fast corners was complete. And about the only time the race face was in place alongside me.
Looking out of the side window up the next straight, it was impossible not to comment.
“You can see why people compare this place to Tuscany,” I offered. “The vines in the autumn colors are just beautiful…”
The angle of attack just got that bit more aggressive for the next corner.
All too soon we were done. It was beyond impressive from Max.
The story continues.