Semenuk on break from real job

They will certainly see him coming.

Canadian driver Brandon Semenuk’s Subaru Impreza H6 is decorated like a tropical salad.

It does have a roll cage, though.

That is more protection than he normally gets.

The 33-year-old is a three-time Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour gold medallist and X-Games silver medallist.

He bikes down cliffs, basically. He is also a foot-hard-to-the-floor rally driver and two-time American Rally champion for the Subaru USA team.

The man loves going fast and he will get another opportunity to do that this weekend when he competes in the Otago Rally.

"Ha ha. Yeah, you won’t miss us in the rally," he said, glancing back at his colourful borrowed car.

Semenuk is competing in the Classic 4WD category, and the trip to New Zealand is a rallying holiday.

"It is just a fun opportunity to experience another rallying culture and enjoy it, so it is essentially a rallying vacation.

"Mountainbiking is my day-to-day, but when I get a free weekend I like to be in the car."

Canadian Brandon Semenuk prepares for a practice lap before the Otago Rally this weekend. PHOTOS:...
Canadian Brandon Semenuk prepares for a practice lap before the Otago Rally this weekend. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON

Semenuk had been wanting to return to New Zealand for a while. He came out to the country before Covid to shoot a mountainbike film.

He is here to have some fun but that will not stop him pushing hard.

"We’ve done two passes on the test road and I’m still trying to come to grips with the car.

"I think, after a few more runs, I’ll be able to feel a little more settled in and then I’m looking forward to getting on the actual stages that we will race on."

The roads are different from what he has raced on in North America but "very cool".

"If we can finish the rally, that would be great. But hopefully we can get stuck into a battle somewhere.

"I know there are lots of competitors in our class, and if we can be there or thereabouts that would be pretty good.

"But I know a lot of the drivers have a lot of local knowledge and they will be quick."

BMX racer Sarah Walker and Olympic rower Hamish Bond have previously raced in the car Semenuk is in this weekend.

Indian rally driver Gaurav Gill is also in a borrowed car. He will drive Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai i20N Rally2.

It is the winning car from last year.

The three-time Asia-Pacific Rally champion and seven-time Indian Rally champion told the Otago Daily Times he was here to do his "own thing" just before he set off on a practice lap.

"I’m glad we could put this programme together with Hayden and get this opportunity to drive in Otago," Gill said.

"We’ve got a good package. The best one we can have, so I’m sure it is going to be a good week."

The week has not started well, though. He crashed on that practice lap but Gill and his co-driver Jared Hudson are fine. The car, however, is badly damaged.

The team will be working hard to get it ready to race in time for the weekend.