Brandon Semenuk is two minutes clear of the opposition after the opening day of the Olympus Rally, which ended up being a far tougher challenge than many expected.
Saturday’s stages were primarily characterized by rain, which led to slippery surfaces and also puddles and ruts that caught a lot of drivers out.
The 14.3 miles of the conveniently named Stillwater stage was used for SS5 and SS6, with the first pass taking place in the afternoon while the second ran after the sun had set and with rain lashing down.
Enjoying himself on both passes was Semenuk, who admired the technical qualities of the forest-based stage – including surface changes and bridges – after several stages with wide roads and admitted to DirtFish “to be honest, I think there were some areas where we could have carried a bit more speed”.
Being “a bit cautious” did not prevent him from going 28.4 seconds faster than anyone else on the first pass in his Subaru WRX STI, and then 25.9s to the good of his opposition on the second pass in even more challenging conditions.
Second fastest both times was Tom Williams [pictured above], who is now 2m00.8s behind Semenuk in the overall classification in his Ford Fiesta Rally2.
However he has a gap more than two times that size to Patrick Gruszka in third, who he is fighting for RC2 class honors, and with day two being a shorter leg running to 58.6 miles he only has to keep it on the road to beat his Hyundai i20 R5-driving rival.
Closing in on Gruszka slightly through the final two stages of Saturday was Jeff Seehorn, who like Semenuk is in a Subaru, and he set an identical time to Gruszka through the first pass of Stillwater before taking 7.5s out of him on the second.
Alejandro Perusina exited the rally from fifth place, promoting Jason Bailey to that position in his Ford Fiesta Rally3 while Lucy and Lia Block fought over the spots behind him until Lia opted for caution in the low visibility of the final stage having never competed in such foggy and rainy conditions before. She ended the day 12th, while her mother Lucy remains in a tight battle for eighth.
It was a day of typical rallying challenges for staff from DirtFish Rally School who were taking part, and the one who got the worst luck of the draw was Sean Edwards. The rally debutant had a throttle issue that meant he only managed to complete one stage at competitive speeds, but still plans to be back out for Sunday’s stages in his BMW.