After winning his first ever American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship in a year that has been defined by wild twists, unexpected outcomes, and luck constantly changing hands, Brandon Semenuk said it was a relief to get the car to the end of the final stage of the Lake Superior Performance Rally on Saturday.
Semenuk has stated multiple times in the latter half of this season that he didn’t expect to show up and be competing for the title this year, but as each round passed the slim but possible likelihood of holding off or overtaking his main rival, Ken Block persisted.
“I’m so happy to be wrapping up the season in this position,” Semenuk told DirtFish as droves of fans swarmed around the cars of parc fermé after Lake Superior Performance Rally Saturday night.
“Even before heading into [Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally] I knew it was a long shot,” he admitted, “and then after the incident at STPR, it was, very, very small chance that we were going to be standing here.”
Coming into the final round at LSPR having never seen the stages, Semenuk’s work was cut out for him.
“I’ve never been at this event but I pushed on. We had to stay ahead of Travis and put the pressure on Ken, and fortunately there was enough pressure applied for him to make a mistake and we were able to keep it together today and get the car to the end.”
After Block had a rally-ending off that damaged the roll cage of his Hyundai i20 WRC on SS7 on Friday night, Semenuk’s main goal became simple: finish with good pace, and the car in-tact.
“Obviously, there were really tricky stages [on Saturday]. They got really rough throughout that second Loop.
“It’s just a relief to get the car to the finish because obviously anything can happen, it’s rallying.
“The car was flawless this weekend, no drama at all. It just kept running and kept performing.
“I’m really, really happy, and thanks to Keaton [Williams, co-driver] and the team and everyone involved because honestly, this is all their hard work. I feel like I played a really small part in this, it was a huge team.
“Mega, mega thank you to everyone involved.”
Looking back on his season, Semenuk accredited the reliability of his team, his Vermont SportsCar-built Subaru WRX STI, and the consistency he and co-driver Williams achieved in it to be what got him the victory in the end.
“[I think this season] was just a lot of hard work and being consistent, like constantly trying to score wherever we can and just focusing on our drive, not getting carried away with over pushing in an area.
“And then obviously the reliability of the car and the team always getting us back on the road, like look at STPR, if they didn’t repair the car and we didn’t get out and get this power stage points, we wouldn’t be standing here right now, so every little bit counts.
“I think that’s what really sealed the deal for us.”