Semenuk: Oregon retirement will make Subaru stronger

Both works Subaru WRXs retired from Oregon last weekend, but lessons have been learned


Ricardo Cordero’s Oregon Trail Rally win blew a breath of fresh air through the ARA National Championship last weekend – but it might come at a cost with the series’ dominant force Brandon Semenuk admitting his early retirement gave him the opportunity to learn more about making his Subaru WRX even faster.

Both factory Subarus were eliminated by the same rock on the fourth round of the American series, opening the door for Citroën C3 Rally2 man Cordero to become the first non-WRX driver since Ken Block’s 2022 STPR success.

With their cars fixed, Semenuk and team-mate Travis Pastrana returned non-competitively on Saturday afternoon before they slotted back into the classification – complete with superally penalties – for Sunday’s final day.


Talking about his approach to an event he’d started out looking for a 13th consecutive win, Semenuk told DirtFish: “We wanted to learn things, we had nothing to gain by looking to put down big stage times. We made some changes to see how the car performs. We’ve not had that many fast, loose rallies and this one was a good test for the package in a race situation. Travis was here and he was trying some different things, so we were able to learn from each other.

“We learned some good things about the car. I would have been a lot more bummed if we’d packed things up and headed home. It’s good to leave with a good feeling and a lot of positivity.”

Asked about the specifics of what he’d learned, Semenuk pointed to the suspension set-up of the WRX – a car which is still less than a year in competition.


“We’ve worked more on damper clicks,” he said. “We were making changes – for example the powerstage ran three times and created lots of ruts, we made progress in that direction. We were already pretty confident, but this confirmed the set-up for when the road gets chewed up a little bit.

“There’s definitely bigger, higher hanging fruit if we do some development testing rather than damper clicks, but we know somewhere like Ojibwe, the first pass is smooth, then we have huge ruts coming on the second time through.”

Semenuk’s car was stopped by suspension failure after running on a flat through the rough Dalle Mtn Down stage. The Canadian added: “We’ve had a pretty good streak and been really lucky. And the car’s been really reliable.

“I would call it a driver error since we hit something, but I didn’t have the feeling that we weren’t going to finish the rally because of that error. It was a puncture, and then it obviously got worse.

“The dampers have been extremely reliable, and we’ve just rattled this thing down the mountain in sixth gear – I think we found the limit. We salvaged the damper to maybe there’s something for [R53] to look at. But there’s also a lesson for me in how to manage the situation. We were being conservative, but not conservative enough.”