Brandon Semenuk has had the season of his life so far, no doubts about it. Being Subaru Motorsports USA’s main talisman this year is no easy task for a driver in Semenuk’s position, but despite the pressure he’s still claimed three rally victories.
He has sealed himself as one of the greatest drivers currently rallying in North America, with his rock-solid mental state, steadfast determination, and absolutely brilliant car control.
But despite the step up he’s made this year, he still finds himself two points behind Ken Block in the battle for the ARA National Championship with just one round to go.
While teams have debated back and forth if Hoonigan holds an advantage over Subaru or vice versa, the public has seemingly settled into the idea that Block’s Hyundai is just a faster car all around.
Block also having ran the Lake Superior Performance Rally last year while Subaru were absent means he has the more recent experience on these roads.
So, two points back, up against an arguably faster car (even if only slightly), and a complete newcomer to the stages of LSPR, what are the odds of a championship for Semenuk?
Well, while it’s hard to quantify it in terms of numbers, I’ll put it as simply, ‘quite good’. Perhaps up to 50%, but not much lower.
Yes, on paper it’s a pretty Block-weighted bet, but there’s one thing to consider when we look at LSPR. Brandon Semenuk doesn’t have anything to prove.
Now that’s not entirely true I suppose. Anyone so close to a championship has at least something to prove, but when we compare Semenuk to Block, there’s far less weight on the Subaru driver’s shoulders this weekend than his counterpart.
DirtFish already reported on why the championship isn’t everything for Semenuk after STPR, but to summarize, Semenuk wasn’t even expecting to be in such a good position against the Hyundai this year in the first place.
While last year he and team-mate Travis Pastrana were always able to stay ahead of Block when he was in the same car as they were, this year being able to be on pace with, or faster than Block’s Hyundai WRC car is enough to know he’s put in one hell of a season.
That’s not to say the championship is nothing to him. He’s still going for it, and he’ll still be squeezing everything out of this chassis’ last event with Subaru Motorsports USA before they move to the new platform next year.
But when it comes down to it, yes losing the championship would suck, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
To pull a quote out of that post-STPR interview with Semenuk, “I just feel like I’ve have grown as a driver [this year], and I’m happy with where we’re at, but if we can win the championship, it would be incredible.”
This all isn’t to say Block is keeping himself up all night worrying over the championship, I’d doubt it honestly. Nor is it to say he’s expected to crack under the pressure.
But while you might usually expect to find any driver in Semenuk’s position to be super on edge and questioning every move, Semenuk, as always, remains calm, collected, and ready to surprise us.
Make no mistake, this doesn’t change the advantage Block has coming into this final round, but does he have a landslide chance of victory? Not even slightly.