USA Champion ready for Otago Rally challenge
American Rally Association champion Brandon Semenuk will make his first New Zealand rally appearance when he contests the Central Machine Hire Otago Rally in mid-April.
The mountain biker racer turned rally driver from Whistler, Canada, will be a guest driver in the event, taking the wheel of a Subaru Impreza H6 – a normally aspirated six-cylinder four-wheel drive.
Now a two-time American rally champ for the factory Subaru USA team, Semenuk won’t be chasing an outright win in the rally, but rather heading to New Zealand as a sort of ‘rallying holiday’ to sample the famed Otago Rally stages.
“Competing in New Zealand is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. They have fantastic rallying roads, a great community and a strong championship,” Semenuk said.
“I can’t wait to be part of the Otago Rally. An opportunity to drive Jeff Judd’s classic 4WD Subaru was too good to turn down.
“I’m there for fun, but that won’t stop me from seeing what I can do,” he added.
Semenuk’s Subaru will compete in the Classic 4WD section of the rally, and his participation in the event is sure to boost spectator numbers and interest from those outside the rallying family.
As an X Games gold medalist and a three-time Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour winner, he has a global reputation and hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.
“Having the current USA Rally Champion at Otago is really great news,” event spokesman Roger Oakley said.
“We’ve watched the US championship go from strength to strength, and Brandon’s entry will create a lot of interest within each county’s rallying communities.
“The fans are in for a treat getting to see him compete.”
The Subaru that Semenuk will drive has previously contested the Otago Rally in the hands of BMX racer Sarah Walker, and triple Olympic Games gold medal-winning rower, Hamish Bond.
He will be partnered by his regular co-driver, Keaton Williams.
The Otago Rally over the weekend of April 13 and 14 in and around Dunedin in the country’s South Island and Semenuk and over 100 other competitors will tackle 16 timed special stages over a distance of 280 kilometres.
It is also the first round of the Brian Green Properties NZ Rally Championship and receives the support of Dunedin City’s Premier Event fund.