Semenuk dodges wildlife to lead Olympus Rally

Brandon Semenuk leads as a titanic scrap for second place ensues behind

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Not much surprises Brandon Semenuk in the ARA. Winning the first seven stages and building a lead of more than six minutes was always part of the Subaru star’s plan for the opening day of the Olympus Rally presented by DirtFish.

The eighth stage – the second run through the legendary Nahwatzel test – did catch the Canadian off guard. Or a bird arriving in the cockpit (via the roof vent) of the #1 WRX did. It made no difference. Semenuk went half a minute quicker than his first time through and fully two minutes quicker than his nearest rival in the 22-miler.

Semenuk said: “It was a great day. Tons of stage mileage today. Tomorrow will be a bit shorter. It wa everything you expect from Olympus Rally. It started dry and quite abrasive and then by the end of the day, it was pouring down on us. We have a super long Nahwatzel super slippy stage, so it was good fun.

“There was lots of encounter with the wildlife,” Semenuk added. “They just pulled a bird out of my roof vent and then a lot of deer encounters. So I’m happy to make it through all that and not be tackling down a deer on stage. Other than that, great day, car was flawless. Just slap new tires on and go!”

DirtFish instructor Sam Albert ran in an early second place before his Ferrari-engined Subaru suffered brake issues following a flat tire on the fifth stage. A caliper broke on the car, starving the Impreza of rear brakes.

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The Ferrari-engined Subaru was loud but, unfortunately, not as fast as it should have been, thanks to brake problems

Albert was able to affect a repair, but his ability to slow the car in the following stages was seriously impaired. The end of the day and service couldn’t come soon enough for him and co-driver Krista Skucas.

While Semenuk was eight and a half minutes up on the best of the rest, Javier Olivares and Nick Allen were enjoying an absolute thriller of a fight for second. Reigning L4WD champion Olivares initially inherited the place when Albert had his brake issues, though a big push on the second passes of Schafer Long and Deckerville by Allen inverted the positions temporarily.

Across the two passes of Nahwatzel, though, it was Olivares who dominated, carving half a minute out of Allen and retaking second overall and the L4WD lead.

Though they were fighting on the stage, Olivares had already given Allen a helping hand before the rally began. Allen’s regular car suffered from overheating during testing so was forced into a plan B, which was provided by Olivares. With Allen unable to source a spare engine, Olivares helped Allen source a replacement car identical to his own.

John Coyne is 1m30s behind Allen’s Fiesta in his PCRS-run Hyundai i20 N Rally2, while Derik Nelson leads O2WD in his Subaru BRZ. Albert’s brake problems dropped him to sixth in the National classification.

Out of the 73 cars that started day one at Olympus, only 41 made it to the end of the first day in one piece.