Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk has promised there’ll be “no chill” in his pursuit of the 2022 American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship – a relentless approach he’s kept up all season.
Semenuk, a mountain bike legend, is currently in his third year as a works Subaru driver in the ARA and leads the championship standings heading into this weekend’s Ojibwe Forests Rally with a four-point buffer over team-mate and defending champion Travis Pastrana.
But in reality, it’s Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC driver Ken Block that’s Semenuk’s closest challenger in a series that mandates competitors’ only carry their best six scores from a possible nine towards their final points tally.
Both Semenuk and Block have only scored in four rallies so far this season, while Pastrana has collected points on five events but is yet to win. Semenuk has three wins to Block’s two.
Ojibwe, therefore, will be massively important in the race for this year’s championship, and the form book from over the years in Minnesota certainly favors Pastrana who has won Ojibwe Forests Rally some seven times.
Block has won once (back in 2013) while Semenuk hasn’t finished higher than third, not even starting last year’s event after a crash in testing.
But over the course of 2022 Semenuk has been deeply impressive, winning three of the last five rallies and only retiring when his WRX STI developed a gearbox problem on the Sno*Drift Rally and a broken wishbone in Southern Ohio.
Asked by DirtFish how he and co-driver Keaton Williams can keep up this strong run of form heading into the crunch point of the season, Semenuk said: “Yeah obviously it’s been a good year.
“We had two events where we didn’t score points, Sno*Drift and Southern Ohio were just mechanicals. My confidence is there because even at the events where we didn’t score points, we never made a mistake, there was never an off.
“We’re pushing the car to the limits to be on that pace we know Travis is, and we know Ken’s pushing at times, so that stuff’s bound to happen when you’re always on the edge.
“For the rest of the season it’s just the same idea, like there’s no chill at any point,” he stressed.
“To be on pace with Ken in that equipment, every stage needs to be 10 tenths and hopefully we can just maintain this good rhythm of keeping the car safe.
“Obviously we want to get to the end and get some more good points, but the confidence is there, we’re feeling really good in the car and the changes we’ve made, the effort the team’s put in has been incredible so yeah it’s just really head down for the rest of the year and bag as many points as we can even if it’s not first place.”
Taking on an in-form Block in such a competitive car is, of course, no easy task, but Semenuk is proud of the work the entire Subaru team has done to raise its game – such as the heavily revised rear wing and aerodynamic package introduced for last month’s New England Forest Rally – and keep up with a detuned version of what were the fastest generation cars in World Rally Championship history.
“It’s a bit difficult when we have a national-spec car and we can only make so many changes without completely redesigning the car,” Semenuk explained.
“We’re doing what we can and it’s incredible what we’ve been able to accomplish in the car, especially in a short period of time, being able to be on pace or close enough to push Ken.
“It’s tricky because we want a fair battle, I think everyone does. But at the end of the day, we know it’s a really fast car.
“I think it’s done really great things for the team, for Subaru and the team to do well it’s really challenging for us. This season’s going about as good as it possibly can considering what’s up against us.”
This year’s Ojibwe Forests Rally comprises 17 stages and 121.8 miles of competitive action.