Brandon Semenuk took his third American Rally Association National championship win of 2023 in dramatic fashion on the Olympus Rally.
The Subaru Motorsports USA star won all 12 stages of the event, although on the rally-ending powerstage he was given the same time as Jeff Seehorn and Patrick Gruszka following a colossal crash for Tom Williams.
The 4.7-mile SIP superspecial was run twice to close off the rally, and Semenuk was fastest on the first pass by 3.7 seconds over Williams who had been his closest opponent on every single stage of the event.
Gruszka was 11.1s slower in third, and Seehorn was 21.2s back in fourth. That was a gap that would have made a difference in the fight for third had fourth-placed Gruszka not been penalised 3m30s for speeding in his Hyundai i20 R5 on the transit between TC7 and TC8 earlier in the day.
Semenuk completed the repeat pass of the superspecial two hours later in 4m43.8s, which Seehorn and Gruszka got as a nominal times after the powerstage was briefly halted when Williams crashed his Ford Fiesta Rally2 in an 11G impact. The crew were confirmed to be OK, but their rolled car blocked the stage.
Once the recovery of the car was complete the rest of the runners went through at competition speeds, and it meant Seehorn was promoted to the rally runner-up spot which created a Subaru WRX STI one-two.
RC2 class winner Gruszka therefore also made the overall podium, while Jason Bailey beat fellow Ford Fiesta Rally3 driver Javier Olivares to fourth by 58s.
“It’s been an amazing start to the season. I’m very, very happy,” Semenuk said to DirtFish after taking victory.
“We know, obviously with Travis [Pastrana] kind of stepping out, and Ken [Block] sadly [passing away], that the competition would be a bit different this year. It’s kind of come intermittently. But this rally is just so challenging in itself, so definitely still feels really good to get through drama-free, and personally find some good pace and learn some things throughout the rally because you find this rally, it always throws some curveballs.
“Obviously we’ve had very wet weather and now some freshly graded roads and [learning] what those conditions were like. So that’s been a unique challenge, for sure, and Tom was behind us showing some pretty good pace by the end of the day today [before crashing], so it’s kind of just seeing the times stack up with him. I’m really stoked and looking forward to Oregon Trail Rally.”
Ele Bardha (Subaru Impreza WRX STi RA) and top two-wheel drive runner Lia Block (Subaru BRZ) were sixth and seventh overall, with the teenaged Block claiming her best ever ARA result.
Dave Clark drove his BMW M3 E36 to eighth, and further speeding penalties determined the next positions. Lia’s mother Lucy finished ninth on-the-road, but a 4m30s penalty dropped her to 10th behind Michael Hooper, who himself was penalized 2m10s.
In the Olympus Regional Rally, which ran one stage shorter, Andy Miller dominated in his Subaru Impreza STi N12 to win by five minutes over fellow Impreza driver Michael Honn.