Subaru Motorsports factory driver Brandon Semenuk holds a half-minute lead at the end of the first day of DirtFish Olympus Rally but Ford Fiesta WRC driver Barry McKenna slowly ate into his advantage with three stage wins.
McKenna started off on the back foot with a stall on the first stage of the day but has been rapid since, setting similar times as Subaru pairing Semenuk and Travis Pastrana before winning the second passes of Schafer, Deckerville and Nahwatzel.
His single-biggest gain on rally leader Semenuk was the first of those tests, where he pulled 7.1s on the 100 Acre Wood winner. But the pro mountain biker responded on the first Nahwatzel pass, setting the fastest time and recouping 2.7 seconds of his losses.
Travis Pastrana and Ken Block had started out in the lead fight but a high-speed crash on the first pass of Deckerville eliminated the Head-Hoonigan-in-Charge from the running.
Reigning American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National champion Pastrana had kept with Semenuk early on but began to fall away on the second loop, being passed by McKenna for second place on the second run of Deckerville.
Nahwatzel was even less kind to Pastrana, as an issue in the final sector on its night stage run cost him over half a minute and leaves him 1m29s behind his team-mate.
Rally2 runner Tom Williams was left alone in a solitary fourth, as his early sparring partner David Higgins retired at morning service with a faulty steering rack.
Despite being spread across three different classes, Kyle Tilley, Dave Carapetyan, and George Plsek spent much of the day swapping places in the battle for fifth.
Like McKenna, Tilley had suffered a poor opening stage in his ERA Motosport Fiesta Rally2 and started the day down in ninth. But a steady climb up the leaderboard soon followed, first picking off Plsek’s Open 4WD Mistubishi Lancer Evolution on Schafer and then moving past Texas Dave on the first pass of Nahwatzel.
DirtFish alumnus Matt Dickinson showed strong pace to end the day eighth, while DirtFish Rally School instructor Sam Albert, who leads the Regional field in his WRX STI. He has much a bigger gap to close for the lead of Limited 4WD, with Carapetyan over 1m20s up the road.
Dylan Murcott and Tony Torchia, a former chief mechanic at DirtFish Rally School, complete the top 10 in National and are third and fourth in L4WD.
Derik Nelson has over half a minute in hand over Seamus Burke for the lead of Open 2WD, while Roberto Yglesias is dominating the Limited 2WD category in a Ford Fiesta ST.
Lia Block was a high-profile retirement during the day, as she ran wide into a ditch while trying to avoid another stranded competitor and became stuck.