The 20-year-old from Prague didn’t put a wheel wrong through Sunday’s six stages to collect a masterful maiden PWRC victory in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.
Having profited from the early demise of the pacesetting Subaru Imprezas of Anders Grondal (who retired with an engine problem on Saturday lunchtime) and Patrik Flodin (who was excluded for a technical infringement), Semerad was able to spend the final day of the opening PWRC round of the season defending a five-minute lead.
Despite his big advantage, the former Pirelli Star Driver admitted he hadn’t enjoyed the experience too much.
“I would have preferred to still be in a fight,” said Semerad, whose car was equipped with the new Chinese DMACK tyre. “When the gap is like this, you are listening too much to the car and trying to give the car a break as much as you can.”
Semerad’s Lancer ran without fault through the final day - his only problem during the event being the loss of drive to the rear wheels on Friday morning. The clear, dry and cold conditions made the challenge easier than the heavy snow of day one, allowing Semerad to be guided by the cars ahead.
“I’ve just kept the car in the ruts today,” he said. “Yesterday, I made some pace, but today it’s been about getting to the finish. There have been no mistakes and I can assure you, I have been waiting for this result for a very long time. This is the perfect way to start the new season.”
Behind Semerad, Yuriy Protasov brought his Mitsubishi to the finish after a trouble-free day on his second snow rally. There was joy and satisfaction on all three steps of the PWRC podium, as all three of the drivers celebrated career-best results at the finish.
Protasov enjoyed the perfect final-day weather conditions, which featured temperatures dropping close to minus 30 degrees centigrade. The Ukrainian driver realised, however, that there was no point in him pushing to try and catch Semerad - and at the same time he enjoyed a comfortable margin from the driver in third place behind him.
That third place changed hands on the opening stage of the day, when Peruvian champion Nicolas Fuchs (Mitsubishi Lancer) passed the similar car of Valeriy Gorban. Gorban remained fourth until the finish, while Fuchs claimed an impressive podium on his PWRC debut and his first event on snow.
PWRC regular Gianluca Linari was fifth and the first non-Mitsubishi home, while Dmitry Tagirov rounded out the top six after restarting on Sunday under SupeRally regulations. Tagirov had been among the frontrunners early in the event, but slipped back after he went off the road early yesterday.
Ukranian driver Oleksandr Saliuk survived two trips into the snow banks during Saturday’s competition to bring his Lancer to the finish in seventh overall.
Team Abu Dhabi driver Majed Al Shamsi collected valuable experience of the snow - not a common surface to drive on in his homeland in the Middle East. He was eighth in his British-built Impreza. Team-mate Bader Al Jabri retired on day one with engine failure.
The PWRC resumes on Vodafone Rally of Portugal at the end of March.