American champion to compete in Otago

American Rally Association champion Brandon Semenuk will compete at the Otago Rally in April....
American Rally Association champion Brandon Semenuk will compete at the Otago Rally in April. PHOTO: RED BULL
American Rally Association champion Brandon Semenuk will make his first New Zealand rally appearance at the Otago Rally in April.

The mountainbiker-turned-rally driver from Whistler, Canada, will be a guest driver, taking the wheel of a local Subaru Impreza H6 — a normally aspirated six-cylinder four-wheel drive.

A two-time American Rally champion for the Subaru USA team, Semenuk will not be chasing an outright win in the rally, but rather heading to New Zealand as a sort of "rallying holiday".

"Competing in New Zealand is something I’ve wanted to do for some time," Semenuk said.

"They have fantastic rallying roads, a great community and a strong championship.

"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."

Semenuk, an X Games gold medallist and a three-time Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour winner, will compete in the Classic 4WD section of the rally, alongside regular co-driver Keaton Williams.

Otago Rally spokesman said having Semenuk competing in Otago was great.

"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 Olympic rower Hamish Bond.

The Otago Rally takes place over the weekend of April 13 and 14 in and around Dunedin and Semenuk and more than 120 other competitors will tackle 16 timed special stages over 280km.

It is also the first round of the New Zealand Rally Championship and receives the support of Dunedin City’s Premier Event fund.

— Staff reporter