Travis Pastrana believes his Subaru Motorsports USA team-mate Brandon Semenuk has taken his driving to “another level” and that he will be hard to catch in this year’s American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National championship.
Semenuk moved into the championship lead at the weekend having emerged victorious on Olympus Rally, beating Pastrana by an eye-watering 2m35.2 seconds.
There were a number of retirements from some big names on the rally, including Ken Block and Barry McKenna, but Semenuk never put a foot wrong, leading from start to finish to clinch the win.
The victory was Semenuk’s third from his last four rallies – and he was leading the fourth before a mechanical issue stopped him – meaning he now holds a 15 point advantage over his Subaru team-mate with six rounds left to run.
“Brandon, he’s on another level right now and he just doesn’t make mistakes,” Pastrana told DirtFish.
“I am as impressed and proud as I am nervous and un-optimistic about our chances for this year.
“But I do better when everything is one the line and it’s coming down to where everything is on the line.
“Brandon has got off to a great start. He’s right where I was last year at this point. That makes the rest of the season a lot easier for Brandon when it’s not that you have a throw out race, but you can take more risks and you’re not as worried about losing one. So it’s going to be a fun year.”
Pinpointing where Semenuk improved on Olympus, Pastrana believes that his team-mate made big gains at the start of the rally compared to last year.
“We were always able to pull a little bit of time on Brandon on the first stage or first loop of stages and then he was always playing catch up.
“This rally he started off and he won the first stage in a stacked field where we were all going 11 tenths.”
Semenuk believes his two years of experience in the ARA is finally paying dividends.
“We’re maybe making a bit more of a statement that we’re here and we can be a bit more competitive this year whereas last year we were kind of on the back foot,” Semenuk told DirtFish.
“We’ve got some good points and [have] got to try and keep this momentum. I think the first half of the year will be good for us and it will start to get trickier and trickier when we get into the events I have less experience in.
“I think it is just experience. I didn’t go into the last two years with Subaru thinking I was going to win the championship. Obviously I had good success at times but it’s not really until this year where I’ve felt like I’ve got enough experience in the championship to fight with them every rally.”