Semenuk pulls away from Pastrana in Ohio lead battle

After a double retirement in Oregon, Subaru is back to its best again on Southern Ohio Forest Rally

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Friday was the longest day of action at Southern Ohio Forest Rally. Reigning champion Brandon Semenuk made it feel short, winning every stage to lead his Subaru team-mate Travis Pastrana by one minute and 28.6 seconds.

It wasn’t an entirely straightforward day for the reigning world champion. His WRX suffered a water temperature issue on stage four after ingesting too much grass from cutting corners, also shattering his windscreen in the process.

Semenuk had also briefly ventured off-road at one point, as explained by Pastrana, the next car through: “Our first main corner,” Pastrana told DirtFish, “we were wide open for like two miles straight at the rev limiter. We came into a left four, Rhianon [Gelsomino] was like, woah woah woah! I was like, no, don’t worry, we’re following Brandon’s lines straight off the road and he seemed to pop out up there, so we’ll be fine.”

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Brandon Semenuk's 12-rally winning streak was ended at OTR by a rock – but in Ohio his pace has been as solid as ever

Pastrana had felt unable to fully commit in the numerous asphalt sections, costing him further time to his Subaru team-mate.

“It’s technical, it’s scary,” was Pastrana’s assessment of Friday.

We still need to really get after it on these real fast, tree-lined technical sections. Brandon really drives those well. I really like tomorrow’s stages; we’re going to try and pick it up and hopefully get another powerstage win.

A potential three-way battle for the final podium place in the American Rally Association National championship order between a trio of RC2-class Hyundai i20s was short-lived. Pat Gruszka’s older first-generation R5 machine holds third place after both John Coyne and Enda McCormack’s PCRS-run cars failed to complete the first loop.

McCormack was the first challenger to fall, retiring on Top Gun South Short. Then on Toast, Coyne’s rally came to an end, sliding wide on a left and rolling down a 20-foot drop. Despite the dramatic retirement both the crew and car were fine – Coyne was even able to drive his Hyundai back to service after sweeper crews had winched it back to the road.

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Pat Gruszka cemented third place after his RC2 rivals hit trouble

Javier Olivares, who is marching towards a second successive LN4 title, ended the day fourth overall with a minute in hand over O2WD class leader Ryan Booth and his Ford Escort Mk2.

Booth has dominated the O2WD thus far despite the best efforts of Michael Hooper, who put his Lexus IS350 sideways at almost every opportunity. He went a little too sideways at one junction on SS2 and spun out, though lost only a few seconds.

Chris Cyr leads the packed L2WD class but has fellow Ford Fiesta ST driver Roberto Yglesias hot on his heels, 27.5s behind. Championship leader and DirtFish alumni Richo Healey is running fourth in class.

Dylan Gondyke leads a hotly-contested battle for Regional honors – but Adam Kimmett in another Subaru Impreza has been pushing to bridge the gap, which lies at 20.3s after Friday’s action.

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Adam Kimmett began to eat into Dylan Gondyke's Regional lead during the Friday afternoon loop

The grey Impreza piloted by Gondyke is more powerful than Kimmett’s example and was rapid on the flat-out Pound the Alarm stage. But on the more technical stages, Kimmett clawed time back; Gondyke’s lead would be half what it is had the black Subaru not checked in one minute late for midday service and earned a 10s penalty.

For the National runners, eight stages and 42.4 miles of competitive action remain on Saturday – for the Regionals it’s seven stages across 37.2 miles.