Subaru Motorsports USA’s Brandon Semenuk believes the disadvantage the team’s WRX STI goes beyond the “obvious advantages” of Ken Bock’s Southern Ohio Forest Rally winning Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC car.
Block has won the last two American Rally Association presented by DirtFish National events in an i20 Coupe WRC previously used by Pierre-Louis Loubet in the World Rally Championship.
But the Hoonigan driver has shown strong pace ever since debuting the machine on round two, the 100 Acre Wood Rally. He was set for victory before hitting a deer and falling to second on the final stage, while a head-on impact with a tree spoiled Block’s Olympus Rally.
Block’s pace has put the pressure firmly on Subaru pairing Semenuk, who retired from last weekend’s SOFR event, and reigning champion Travis Pastrana who are running in the same O4WD class in their WRX STIs but competing with a very different specification of car.
While Subaru’s car was designed from the ground up for ARA competition, Block’s Hyundai has had to be modified to comply with the regulations – meaning some of the parts fitted are more exotic than what Subaru has.
Semenuk retired from last weekend’s event after a rear wishbone failed upon landing over a crest on the powerstage.
It hadn’t been a vintage performance from the 100AW and Olympus Rally winner who struggled on the first morning with road sweeping, a bad tire call and a spin that all dropped him a minute behind Block.
But Semenuk’s comments about the mechanical issue, that he described as “unusual”, were intriguing as he believes a failure of this nature was essentially inevitable given the speed he’s having to drive at to keep up with Block.
“Travis and I have been asking a lot from our cars this year and besides the obvious advantages of the World car, this is another area where the cars differ,” he told DirtFish.
“Our Subaru was built around maintaining some OEM components, to keep costs down and maintain a level closer to other national spec cars.
“It’s honestly incredible what we can throw at our cars, but this time was just a bit too much for those bits.
“Regardless, we weren’t in the best points scoring position, so it might not be the biggest loss at the end of the championship.
“Hopefully we can get back on pace in NEFR.”
Semenuk’s retirement dropped him behind team-mate Pastrana in the championship standings, but just nine points cover the top three after five rounds.
However, with only the best six scores from nine to count across the season, the championship is still anybody’s.