Longtime American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National series leader Brandon Semenuk steps into the unknown this weekend as he tackles the Susquehannock Trails Performance Rally for the first time.
The Subaru Motorsports USA driver hasn’t competed on STPR – the penultimate stop on this year’s ARA calendar – or the final round in Lake Superior, leaving him at a disadvantage to his title rivals Ken Block and team-mate Travis Pastrana.
Semenuk is determined to lift America’s premier rally title this season, but he knows he will have to do it the hard way.
“I mean, going into the next couple of events I haven’t gone to either, so I knew starting this year those weren’t going to be my strongest events,” Semenuk told DirtFish after his second-place finish at Ojibwe.
Ahead of the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally this weekend, Semenuk leads Block by only four points in the championship, a lead that would have been five points if the powerstage on Ojibwe hadn’t been thrown out due to an SOS.
While STPR and the season-ending Lake Superior Performance Rally weren’t held in Semenuk’s maiden ARA season due to COVID-19, 2021 brought its own issues with Semenuk’s fourth Red Bull Rampage win interfering with LSPR, and STPR being run as a Super Regional round as it didn’t have the stage miles required to make the national calendar.
“Granted,” Semenuk continued, “Ken and Travis [Pastrana] haven’t done those events in a few years, but they have done those events a lot.
“They’re familiar with how the rallies are organized, the areas, and the surfaces and everything like that, and they’ve got past in-car [footage] to go off of, so I’ve got basically nothing, and it’ll be tricky.
While Semenuk will no doubt have access to the knowledge and footage from previous year’s events, that’s no replacement for on-stage experience.
Going into STPR though, none of the top drivers have much in the way of recent experience. Block last entered the rally in 2013 but has won it twice. Pastrana has the most recent experience of the three drivers who can mathematically win, having entered in 2017 but has only made his way up to second despite seven attempts.
After a season of going absolutely flat-out, Semenuk will have to continue that momentum into the final events of the season, and hope that at STPR his lack of stage experience can be padded by his competitions lack of recent stage experience.
Already leading, Semenuk would benefit most from a win here, giving him a bit more of a points buffer, and allowing him to relax a bit more on LSPR where his main competition Ken Block won last year.
One thing we know for a fact though, Semenuk will not back down, and you can never count him out.
“Obviously we’re going to try,” he said.
“We’ve got we got nothing to lose at this point.”