The growth in both spectator and competitor interest in the American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National Championship has led to many promising prospects popping up and taking small bits of the limelight away from the rallying veterans.
With each event podium, improved position, and clean stage mile certain drivers are proving to be more and more skilled in their quests towards a national title.
While plenty of new competitors to rallying in the United States have made an impact over the last few years, we want to take a moment to look at some of the most promising futures in the sport – the rising stars of the 2021 season, and their plans for the upcoming 2022 ARA National Championship.
I know, a Subaru Motorsports USA driver on a list of up-and-comers is a bit of a stretch, but take a look at how Semenuk’s rallying career has progressed over the past few years. While he had already impressed in Canadian rallying for years, only a few times had he competed in the US.
His first full US season was 2020, and only last year was he finally able to get stage time in each of the ARA National rounds. In that time he’s shown serious improvements on events he’s ran more than once, picked up two overall wins, and come oh-so-close to more, only to have a mechanical take him out of contention.
A full ARA National attack in 2022 would mean Semenuk finally has a season that is full of roads he’s experienced on, and more seat time to take into each round as well. Subaru’s 2022 plans have yet to be revealed, but if Semenuk gets another season at the US’s highest level he would be just as capable of taking the overall title as any of the greats.
Speaking of drivers who have been on the scene a short time, Tilley has been around the shortest. The LMP2 racer’s first ever rally was Ojibwe Forests Rally last year, less than five months ago! In that time he’s rallied an Evo VIII and a McKenna Fiesta Rally2, as well as his own Group B Metro 6R4 and Fiesta R5.
ERA Motorsport has already announced a full ARA National campaign for Tilley, alongside co-driver Martin Brady, and he’ll be back behind the wheel of a Fiesta R5 in the RC2 class. Head back to DirtFish later this week for even more on Tilley’s plans.
Bardha Motorsports duo Ele Bardha and Corrina Roshea made quite the splash in 2021 when the dynamic stunt duo had a killer breakout season competing in their ex-Higgins Prodrive-built Subaru Impreza.
Aiming for championship gold in the LN4 class, a family emergency forced the team to withdraw from Lake Superior Performance Rally where a good performance would have been vital to their title chances.
While disappointing, Bardha didn’t let it get him down. Ever since then he’s been back to doing stunt work, saving money for future rallying endeavors. Though he’ll miss the first two rounds of the year, Bardha plans on being back behind the wheel of his now upgraded Subaru come Olympus, which still gives him a shot for the 2022 LN4 championship, before hopefully upgrading in later seasons.
The LN4 title battle that Bardha Motorsports was fighting? It was against this guy. Piatkowski is a second-generation rally driver hailing from New Jersey who made a name for himself and his MAP Rally team last year taking home the LN4 title in his first ever full season.
Piatkowski pilots a first-generation Impreza 2.5 RS that he built himself, and in fact Piatkowski does just about everything himself! Not to discredit the help of his crew and friends who have been there when help is needed, but off-season car-work, funding, logistics planning, re-prep and almost anything else that he can do, he takes care of personally. No hints of arrive-and-drive here.
The ultimate goal of any grassroots driver, Piatkowski at multiple times outpaced RC2 class competitors, and found himself in the overall top five more than once last season.
Despite the glamor of 2021, Piatkowski is now taking a small step back from the work he put in last year. Sponsorship could change his tune, but the reigning LN4 Champion plans to stay more local this year, running some of his favorite, and best-performing, events in lieu of travelling cross country. Still, expect MAP rally to be a serious contender in any rally the team shows up to, including next month’s Sno*Drift.
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Nordic Motorsports’ Nelson has been slowly building and improving his turbo Subaru BRZ open-class car for years. Despite the relative lack of rallies in the region, Nelson get out any chance he has, and over the past few years has been impressing more and more.
His most impressive performance yet on the National scene came in 2021, as he competed on three rallies, was in the top 10 in each and won his class at the Oregon Trail Rally.
ARA National is difficult for competitors who live on the west coast, as seven of the nine rounds take place on the other side of the country, but Nelson still has plans to compete as much as possible this year.
While it’s unclear if that means enough events to put the pressure on the likes of Seamus Burke for the 2WD championship, rest assured he’ll make his best attempt at throwing a wrench in the points every chance he gets.
With co-driving experience tracing all the way back to 2010, Pura Vida Rally’s Yglesias finally hopped in the driver’s seat in 2020 at Rally Colorado. With just one full season under his belt, the Costa Rican already has a L2WD National Title, and big plans for 2022.
The team will compete once again in the L2WD class, having found a few improvements to make to its Fiesta ST. This year up-and-coming co-driver KJ Miller will be in the passenger seat for the whole season as well, making for an overload of great potential.
The duo plan to enter five to six events, starting with 100 Acre Wood Rally in March, and hope to find even more speed this season before considering a move up to a new class. While the L2WD Fiesta may not be the fastest car in the field, Pura Vida Rally is more than capable of putting on a performance with it, and should be a crew to watch going into this season.
One of the most promising RC2 competitors over the past few years, Booth is always one to watch when he takes to the stages.
Having moved into a McKenna Motorsport Fiesta R5 at the end of his first season in 2019, he’s had a very fast rise to the top of the rallying food chain. Behind the wheel of the R5 in 2020 he nailed down a class win, and twice finished fourth overall.
Last year he was behind the wheel of not only the R5, but also a brand new Fiesta Rally2 and later on McKenna Motorsport’s Škoda Fabia R5 as well. Booth ran five National events and consistently showed top five overall pace, but has been plagued by mechanicals and rally-ending offs at four of his last 10 National entries.