Subaru Motorsports pairing Brandon Semenuk and Travis Pastrana are running first and second on DirtFish Olympus Rally with one loop of stages to go, as chief rival Barry McKenna crashed out on Wildcat.
McKenna had started Sunday strong with a stage win on Dayton and took further time out of rally leader Semenuk on the SIP superspecial, reducing the lead gap to 23.5 seconds.
But trying to make further inroads on Wildcat, McKenna went off at a bridge and retired – at the very same place Semenuk had gone off and stopped at during last year’s Olympus.
Approaching a slow left corner McKenna had missed the entry to a bridge, falling through a gap and down a ravine below. Both he and co-driver Leon Jordan were reported as OK following their off.
That leaves Semenuk with a 2m21.3s gap over reigning American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National champion Pastrana with three stages still to go.
Pastrana won the short SIP superspecial but was otherwise unable to match the pace of either Semenuk or McKenna before his off, and even found himself behind the Ford Fiesta Rally2 of Tom Williams on Wildcat as his car reportedly has no boost.
While Williams was pleased to have gone second-fastest on Wildcat among the Open-class cars, he was just as entranced by the lead battle as those following the rally from outside the drivers’ seat.
“I think everyone knows that Wildcat is one where anything can happen – and obviously did, as Brandon and Barry were in some fight and something was going to happen for sure,” Williams told DirtFish.
“Watching those two lines on that stage, something was going to happen, I knew it because there were cuts like you’ve never seen before.”
McKenna wasn’t the only one caught out by Olympus Rally’s famously tricky stage. Dave Carapetyan had been comfortably leading the Limited 4WD class but went off nose-first into a tree during the opening sequence of corners of Wildcat, bringing his rally to an end.
That allowed George Plsek to move his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution into fourth overall, taking advantage not only of Carapetyan and McKenna’s downfalls but also a tough morning for Kyle Tilley.
ERA Motorsports frontman Tilley lost over two minutes on Dayton with a puncture, only to then get another puncture on Wildcat. With only one spare, he had to limp to the end of the loop and dropped a further three minutes, sinking down to sixth place overall.
Carapetyan’s demise has promoted Matt Dickinson to the lead of Limited 4WD and fifth overall, who now has just over 45 seconds in hand on Tilley.
Open 2WD remains a battle between Derik Nelson’s Subaru BRZ and Seamus Burke’s V6 Mustang-powered Ford Escort Mk2. Nelson has continued to edge further ahead of Burke, with the two now up to seventh and ninth overall and split by Dylan Murcott’s L4WD Subaru Impreza.