Last Sunday, August 6, the world’s most famous rally driver, Colin McRae, would have celebrated his 50th birthday.
Tragically, the Flying Scotsman was taken from us 11 years ago when he lost his life in a helicopter accident near his home in Lanark, Scotland.
Closer to home, however, the McRae name continues to generate media interest, but this time it’s Colin’s younger brother, Alister, whose catching the media’s attention.
Alister, a former Subaru, Mitsubishi and Hyundai WRC star, and winner of the ultra-competitive British Rally Championship, is headed to New Zealand’s legendary Ashley Forest Rallysprint, to be held late in September.
McRae joins current Hyundai driver, Hayden Paddon, in a star-studded line-up that makes the event one of the most anticipated of the season.
Add in last year’s Ashley Forest winner, Sloan Cox, in his potent Mitsubishi Lancer and (potentially) Alex Kelsey and his home-grown ‘Kelsey MC2’, and you’ve got an event that is guaranteed to live up to its billing.
Even for a non Kiwi, the Ashley Forest Rallysprint’s reputation precedes it, despite the annual event being held over a course that’s just 1.7 kilometres in length.
Having first been held in 1979, the event has a list of winners that reads like a ‘who’s who’ of New Zealand rallying. There’s Tony Teesdale, Rod Millen, Possum Bourne, Kim Austin, Marty Roestenberg, Chris West and Matt Summerfield, just to name a few.
“Ashley Forest Rallysprint has a lot of history and, of course, everyone wants to win it,” McRae says.
And he’s every chance to as he’s driving Possum Bourne’s ex-Subaru Impreza World Rally Car that has been up-speced to produce a whopping 750 brake horsepower. Its suspension has also been upgraded to 2018 WRC spec.
“The Subaru is almost 20 years old now, but with the extra horsepower and some testing beforehand on gravel, I think we can be competitive. Thinking back to Race to the Sky, the car was amazing fun to drive on gravel,” McRae added.
Paddon, one would expect, will still be the man to beat, however.
His Hyundai i20 AP4+ has dominated this year’s New Zealand Rally Championship, and running with even more power at Ashley Forest, the car may well be uncatchable if it remains reliable.
If, but, maybe ….
It promises to be an incredible battle between some of the sport’s biggest names, and just goes to show that you don’t need to have a national championship event to attract the heavy hitters!
Get yourself to Ashley Forest, just outside Christchurch, on September 22 and 23 for what promises to be a weekend of motorsport not to be missed!
Also see event preview: Alister McRae to contest Ashley Forest Rallysprint