Brandon Semenuk to Race Rally Cars for Subaru Again in 2021

Feb 22, 2021
by James Smurthwaite  

Brandon Semenuk will race the ARA (American Rally Association) season with Subaru again this year after a successful debut season in 2020.

The legendary Canadian freerider raced his debut season in the blue and gold WRX STI Open Class rally cars last year and it was a huge success with four straight podiums and a rally win. These results earned him a second-place finish in the ARA championship behind Ford's Barry McKenna and one place ahead of teammate Travis Pastrana.

Semenuk will continue to race alongside action sports legend Travis Pastrana this year, who is himself a five-time US champion after winning four straight Rally America titles from 2006-2009 and the inaugural ARA championship in 2017.

The pair have already begun the 2021 season at Michigan’s Sno*Drift Rally, which kicks off a planned nine-round ARA campaign. Semenuk finished second at the event, 1 minute behind Pastrana after the event's 12 stages


bigquotesLast year was all about learning for me. I started out focusing on getting my pace up to see if I could run with the top guys in the series, and ended up on the podium at every rally—plus I got my first U.S. win. This year I’m going in knowing I can be quick in the car.Brandon Semenuk

Check out Semenuk in action behind the wheel from the Southern Ohio Forest Rally last year below:


More info, here.


94 Comments

  • 156 1
 People like this are wired differently than most mortals. There has to be something more to it than practice when you see some people able to excel in various disciplines that all require focus, lightning quick decisions, risk management and supreme mental toughness.
  • 82 4
 Yep, some people are just pure talent, crush at everything they do. Bastards...
  • 42 7
 Probably has more to do with how they approach learning / practice.
  • 40 0
 @nvranka: Imagine Brandon winning goldmedals when starting to do figure skating...
  • 54 2
 @gravity354: the only talent I was born with was eating burritos and storing the weight at my belly.
  • 9 0
 It really is something that is super interesting to me. It would be very interesting to see a study done on athletes like him, travis, etc they all just can jump into whatever action sport they want and crush it. Palmer I guess would be the first to come to mind with this. Wild stuff.
  • 25 0
 @gravity354: as much as I agree, I find it unfair to sum it up as pure talent, people at this level of their profession usually have a lot better focus, work ethic and drive, they have mental strength to push themselves further and do the extra things when their body and mind say stop. we don't see the hardwork and sacrifice it takes to get there, we just see them succeed a lot of the time. but I agree In a sense, the pure talent comes out from a lot of other things we don't get to see.
  • 6 0
 @onone26: that´s something I think about a lot. There seems to be certain people who have figured out the recipe to success. That´s way more than pure talent. I think there´s a very specific mindset that those guys have, a mixture of knowing exactly what is feasible and the drive to prove it
  • 2 0
 @onone26: mindset and resilience are surely a huge part of it. Of course training is key too, but even the 10,000 iteration theory is about being competitive, not being able to dominate like some people can in their respective multi-discipline pursuits. Very curious stuff!
  • 8 0
 I agree it is mostly focus, I recently talked to a bike shop owner that knew Remi Metallier when he first moved to Whistler, and he said the dude was focused on his career from day one. Not many of us see the years of early mornings, lonely work outs and social sacrifice it takes to do any sport at a world class level.
  • 5 0
 @Bomadics: totally.

It’s like that in all sports and industries. Most of the people at the top have the most refined and consistent lifestyle / practice / approach / mindset etc.

Simply put, they understand iteration and dedication. And they never give up.
  • 15 0
 Harnessed ADHD is a powerful tool.
  • 7 0
 @onone26: people don’t realize that mental strength is a genetic trait that some are predisposed with more of. Doesn’t mean we can’t all have mental strength, just means there are some genetic freaks born with more of it! Just like how some people are born physically attractive, or taller/shorter than the average person, Brandon and all the top athletes we all admire are 100% born with above average mental strength. Now, when we see all the top athletes competing against each other with freakish genetics we compare them to ourselves. But they aren’t competing against us, they are competing against others like themselves ... that’s where we see guys like Semenuk, with above average genetics (for action sports), put in a crap ton of practice and dedication that pushes them above the crop. That’s where we see the “nurture” aspect of this dichotomy.
  • 3 0
 @adrennan: So you’ve attained nirvana basically.
  • 4 0
 There's something interesting here yes. You also find that often the best athletes are generalists until very late, this is obviously not without exceptions. Federer, Brady, Semenuk, Palmer.
www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jul/12/generalise-dont-specialise-why-focusing-too-narrowly-is-bad-for-us
  • 12 5
 Totally agree, look at the Kardashians they work hard on their giant rumps, sluttiness and hotel sex films. I mean anyone can be a whore, but it takes true determination to turn it into millions of dollars. @onone26:
  • 3 0
 Subaru puts out a youtube series about their rally team called 'Launch Control'. Semenuk + Travis Pastrana + fast cars and an very dramatic narrator makes for an enjoyable watch.
  • 2 0
 I remember reading a couple articles in university that equated part of the year in which a person is born to success later in life. Not in some planet alignment crystals and crap way, but in the sense that when humans are younger the discrepancy between a 7 year old born in January or February vs one born in nov. or something is huge. That discrepancy then leads to more opportunities for the older 7 year old (specialized training, rep. Or higher levels of sport, etc.) the percentage of people who have reached pinnacles of these specialized pursuits that were born in the first 3 or so months of the year is shocking.
  • 2 1
 adrennan: Talent is talent, however you measure it
  • 5 0
 There's a book about this called "The Art of Learning", written by a guy who was a world champion in chess, then in martial arts. He draws connections between the learning/practice/mental skills and how they're transferable from one discipline to another.
  • 1 0
 delete
  • 4 0
 @dcaf: I just need to get people to watch my freestyle burrito eating edits now...
  • 1 0
 @gravity354: My eaaaarrrsss arrree burrrrnnninnnggg Gravity!!! LOL
  • 2 0
 @adrennan: Have you looked into onlyfans.com ? There's a lot to explore in a burrito
  • 3 0
 @dhjunkie: It has nothing to do with "jumping right in".
Sure, they're probably a little better naturally than the rest of us, but then they work 100x harder.
Look at all of Danny Macaskill's behind the scenes videos, Matt Jones recent video. They're willing to do something 300 times in two days in order to pull it off.
It also helps that once you get successful at something, you get access to resources that normal folk don't. So Semenuk become the best slopestyle rider in the world, then had the money/time/resources to do a LOT of rally driving.
  • 2 0
 @pourquois-pas 100% spot on. Guys like Brandon, Pastrana, Palmer, even stick/ball sports guys excel and muliple sports like baseball, American Football, etc. Andrew Jones, ex Atlanta Braves player, used to come in our shop back in the day and grabbed a BMX bike. He said he grew up BMX but had to stop once he got to a certain skill level in baseball. Many athletes 'get it' and just excel with that mind set.
  • 4 0
 Sebastian Loeb is another one of those people.
  • 2 0
 @vectorforces: Thats true, they obviously put in the work. I think its a lot more mental than we think. My friend is like that, he was/is a talented mountain biker, then got into jet skis, kills it in that game (freestyle tricks) , skis, snowboards, sleds, dirt bikes, everything he is just really good at within a short time period (in comparision to others here)
  • 2 0
 Does Semenuks and Pastrana's success have anything to do with the fact that they are famous already and racing for Subaru and possibly are just racing superior cars?

Not trying to be a hater but an honest question as Subaru is one of the leaders in offroad car racing and it's kinda crazy that these 2 guys can just roll in and be winners. Be interesting to hear from someone in the know who follows this kind of racing and if they have any advantage with the cars and technology they have access to and are racing
  • 1 0
 @ihatetomatoes: There is a reasonable reason to believe that. But I believe that there are just a few humans that still retain the alien DNA. They are just on another level with their awareness and sense. A tiny fraction of super human. There are no alien that I know of, but what do I know. But humans such as these indivduals that you speak of are on the next level...... Fighter pilots if you will.....
  • 1 0
 deleted
  • 3 0
 @ihatetomatoes: to be fair to both of them, they didn't just get in and drive, Semenuk has been self supporting an amature rally program for several years and Pastrana had raced several other disciplines prior to getting into rally. Also, regardless of your fame or money, you can't just step into a top class ARA car, you have to earn your way to that seat.
Semeuk replaced Dave Higgins, Probably one of the better all-around drivers out there, he held (may still hold) the auto lap record of Isle of Man and held the Mt. Washington record. Those are huge shoes to fill and I doubt seriously Subaru would put a 2nd tier driver into Higgins' ex-seat.
  • 2 0
 @suspended-flesh: This is the truth same as Tyson Fury and many other top people
  • 1 0
 Bo knows Rally!
  • 1 0
 @suspended-flesh: I’ve seen this outside of sports too. Hyper-focus that can’t be turned off.
  • 2 0
 Nicolas Vouilloz
  • 2 0
 @ihatetomatoes: No, racing regulations are so strict, there's barely any difference in performance between cars at the top level.
Some people are just better, life is unfair.
  • 1 0
 Not to mention the simulators nowadays are amazing and help sharpen the reflexes just like foam pits and padded landings have reduced risk to go far beyond where we used to go in real circumstances.
  • 67 0
 What do you when you're not driving Brandon?

Oh................sometimes I make viral MTB webedits that get a couple million views on Youtube. It's sort of a hobby.
  • 43 0
 I've always been curious to see how he'd do in a WC Downhill race
  • 25 0
 Same. I suspect if he focused on training he’d be very competitive. His talent and work ethic are world class.
  • 5 0
 I'm sure they'd do alright if that's where their focus was. Reeder was pretty quick last time he broke out his DH bike. And it's not a focus.
  • 2 0
 @onemanarmy: Don't get me wrong, I think Rheeder is a very fast and talented rider, but the last time he raced DH was at the Crankworx summer series at Silverstar. Silverstar is his local mountain, I've seen him there a couple times and ridden past his beautiful idiot jump line. But his competition for DH was a bunch of freeriders and EWS riders but only three dedicated DH riders (Finn, Wallace, Fitzgerald [correct me if I'm wrong]). I think home field advantage definitely was in his favor.
  • 1 1
 @JasPeR314159: I'm aware of that. The question posed was... what would these guys be capable of in DH IF it was their focus. I put Rheeder up there with Semenuk as one of the special ones doing what he does.

And yeah it's his home mountain. Doesn't make pulling a third any less solid of a result. He beat some quality riders. BVS is no slouch and has ridden that resort a lot of times. Jesse Malamed. Seth Sherlock is a JR DH rider that's fast enough to be ridding on Gwin's team. Mark Wallace. Remi is a Canadian Enduro champion and has put plenty of miles in at Silverstar.... Wouldn't be surprised if more than Rheeder. Especially on a DH bike. Cruz is a factory supported DH rider. McDowall is a wcdh rider and Canadian champion. Definitely ridden that park more than Rheeder on a dh bike. Jamieson is a young ripper with factory support also from Canada. Henry is a cadadian with factory support. Rhys is an all around ripper with world class results in every from of MTB racing... also Canadian. Trevor is a BC ripper. Fabien was supported by Polygon I believe at the time. Now he's on NS Bikes. Mckay is an enduro rider backed by Giant. No slouch.

Point is... every dude he beat is fast and plenty familiar with the course... and he beat most of them. And racing is not his focus.

I'm sure the same would be said for Semenuk... Example... Jordie Lunn. That dude was stupid fast in DH but focused on free ride and was a ground breaker at it. RIP. Had he stayed focused on DH who knows what he could have done. These are world class athletes we're talking about.

Pastrana is a prime example. Dude was amazing racing and would most definitely gone on to do very very well in super cross. But it's not what captured his attention. So he went on to excel at pretty much everything he touched.

Would Rheeder have beat Greg Minnaar down that course. Probably not. Just making it to the elite level in DH is an amazing task.
  • 1 0
 Id be curious how Pastrana would fair in MTB DH racing. Im willing to be that once he got the hang of it, he could be competitive.
  • 1 0
 @rallyimprezive: Maybe 20 years ago. Dude isn't young anymore. He's 37 but his body is like 60. Dudes beat the hell out of it. But he's no slouch on a bike as it is. 360 double backflip anyone. He's got more skills on an MTB than most just naturally carried over from his time on motos.
  • 27 1
 Why won't society value those of us who want to try everything, and thus never have enough time or dedication to become exceptional at anything?! When will my across-the-board mediocrity be celebrated? Wink
  • 2 0
 Same here. I swear if I just played baseball, I would totally have a bunch of golden gloves and numerous World Series rings.
  • 3 0
 It is being celebrated, just not very well, so no ones notices, I think I see a pattern forming.
  • 25 0
 I can’t even read one paragraph in a moving vehicle without getting carsick.
  • 1 0
 Ha!! Right?
  • 34 0
 @jomacba: you mean ha! Right 5, over crest
  • 2 0
 @the11firm: Well played sir... well played!
  • 2 0
 I once worked for a bank up in the mtns and was on the ATM team, we drove out all over a 3 county area and I had to sit in the back seat and balance the deposit/Withdrawal spread sheet while they drove. Sick as a dog every day.
  • 2 0
 I was a sailor for many years. Some people just don't get motion sick. Some of us just learn how to function while sick.
  • 8 0
 I am avaiable as well, Subaru! Check my skills on Strava on my way to work, please. I do better every day.
  • 8 0
 this guy just does it all. so rad watching the subaru series!
  • 3 0
 You know what they say...with age get a cage! So cool the doors that MTB and moto have opened for these guys. Also what Redbull has done for all these action sports. It may taste like steamed cat piss but they do some awesome things. Now in true pink bike fashion, I gotta hate some as well. The ARA is awesome but it's bush league compared to the WRC. The Euros carry the mail like non other.
  • 4 0
 This sport reminds me of chess-boxing. Like, you're driving all out with no tolerances, and trying to interpret this cryptic language
  • 5 0
 Like anything you do a lot it actually becomes very fluent to call and easy to understand. If you are able to make your own pace notes, once you have done it a few times and refined your system it makes it a lot easier to commit to flat-out corners, especially once you have a real feel for what each note means in reality. I looked back through some of my old pace notes a while ago and it came flooding back like it was a language I used to speak as a child. None of this is to take away from the level of commitment Semenuk and other top-level drivers have, mind.
  • 4 1
 @Linkpin: It's impressive & all that, but these lads are not a patch on WRC drivers.
  • 1 0
 @chriss78: of course, but Semenuk and Pastrana got into racing well into adulthood. Of course they aren't WRC caliber, but they're both still very talented
  • 1 0
 @chriss78: looks like Subaru will likely make a return to WRC as they are working on a shared platform with Toyota. I wouldn't be surprised if Semenuk will be ready in the next few years to step up to WRC.
  • 4 0
 I too like to listen to an audiobook on a long drive... but his is rubbish.
  • 1 0
 Not surprised at all an ace MTB'er would do well in a rally car. It's so much about balance, reactions and knowing the limits of your vehicle. Would be interesting to see some of the pro DH guys racing hillclimb in cars, now that's two sports that are vertically opposed yet demand exactly the same mental defects.
  • 3 0
 The real hero is the guy reading the notes.. I would hurl so bad in about 10 seconds,
  • 1 1
 Article about ebikes, in any context, shows up - "get rid of that, it's not mountain bikes, Pinkbike is not about motorsports, electric bikes are not eco!". Then the article about Semenuk pinning down the forest road in a petrol engine car pops up - "yeah, sick!" ????
  • 3 0
 He’s going to race with Travis Pastrana right
  • 1 0
 They just finished 1/2. This article should have come out last week.

dirtfish.com/rally/ara/pastrana-starts-ara-season-with-snodrift-victory
  • 2 0
 Off topic... Subaru Crosstrek STI...come on Subaru...you can put 300 HP in there...
  • 5 0
 You think if that happens I could trade the my wife’s crosstrek 4 banger in without her noticing?
  • 1 0
 Yes! Been dreaming of that for years. But now with 3 growing kids and needing more room in a car, I want to see an Outback STI. I want something that can haul, in more ways than one!
  • 1 0
 No kids for me, I just need to transport a bike. I have a retired ambulance for my heavy work.
  • 1 0
 Wow! This guy must have a really good sense of weight transfer, traction, trajectories, etc.
  • 2 0
 first generation a.i. replicant. confirmed.
  • 1 0
 If the navigator loses his spot matching the chart to the course, directions are all messed up. I'd bet it happens.
  • 2 0
 They usually call "drive as you see it" if that happens.
  • 1 0
 That road look pretty straight to me I don’t think you need anybody telling you to move left or right 1 foot
  • 2 0
 pure boss
  • 2 0
 Awesome work, congrats!
  • 1 0
 Semenuk is a machine! GOAT
  • 2 0
 Moss, maybe...
  • 1 0
 We have Andrew Shandro to thank for spotting his talent.
  • 1 0
 Yes Brandon, good luck on it. Pinkbike should become Pinkcar
  • 1 0
 first right-left made my heart stop already Smile
  • 1 0
 Rare we get people like him
  • 1 0
 He’s a really, really, really, good driver.
  • 1 0
 That Subaru did not sound good at the end there.
  • 1 0
 Solid drive to 2nd on the podium last weekend at Sno*Drift as well!
  • 1 0
 #legend
  • 1 0
 Cool!
  • 1 0
 travis pastrana 2.0 ?
  • 1 0
 Launch Control.

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