In our world, it’s the dream busman’s holiday. It’s some of the best roads on the planet in one of the most entertaining cars in rallying. It’s not hard to see why two-time American champion Brandon Semenuk took up the offer of a seat aboard a Subaru Impreza H6 on April’s Otago Rally.
Semenuk and co-driver Keaton Williams will make their New Zealand rally debut on the famous South Island stages, offering yet more fan appeal to an event which will already feature Kris Meeke driving a Ford Escort RS1800.
“I’m thrilled to go to Otago,” Semenuk told DirtFish. “New Zealand’s my favorite country. It’s amazing there, typically for mountain biking, but the rally is pretty challenging too. I haven’t looked at a map yet, but it’s a lot of miles and not a lot of repeated stages – and I think we all know about the roads in New Zealand.
“Since the news came up that we were going, I was just like: ‘Well, it’s a rally vacation.’ There’s no pressure from my end. We’re not going to be competitive in the package we have – you know, hopefully we’ll be competitive in the class. But for me just to go, get the experience, enjoy the roads and the rally community, that’s great.
“It’s good experience for me and Keaton, it’s more time in the car. And then we come back to this [ARA] championship where we’re fresh and ready to go with good seat time right before Olympus Rally.
“I’m excited just to get the experience. It’ll be really fun to go somewhere else in the world and get in a rally car.”
And the non-turbo Impreza H6 does differ quite considerably from the factory-built WRX Semenuk used to win last week’s Sno*Drift ARA season-opener in Michigan. The H6 is an older-specification Subaru with a six-cylinder engine and steering wheel on the right-hand side.
Semenuk added: “I am going to be on the other side of the car. I’ll be in what was normally a co-driver’s seat here. It’s going to be a lot of learning. I’ve driven a bunch of right-hand drive cars, not rally cars before.
“It’ll be a little different when you’re trying to be precise [with the car]. I’m sure I’ll get used to it – it’s just going to take a minute.”
It wouldn’t be fair to call this Semenuk’s competitive debut in New Zealand – he’s a multiple winner of the Crankworx event in Rotorua on two wheels.
“New Zealand is a great place to go mountain biking,” he said, “and I love Crankworx. It’s a special place.”
Central Machine Hire Otago Rally spokesman Roger Oakley is stoked to have Semenuk in Dunedin for the April 12-14 event. He said: “Having the current American champion at Otago is really great news.
“We’ve watched the US championship go from strength to strength, and Brandon’s entry will create a lot of interest within each county’s rallying communities. The fans are in for a treat getting to see him compete.”