Young McRae already has the makings of a champion

| Photographer Credit: Tim Allott

For 16-year old Max McRae, the hype that has preceded his rally career has put incredibly undue pressure on him, even before his rally career has gotten into first gear.

You can have the most expensive tennis racquet in the world, but if you can’t play the game, you’ll never do any good. Same with a cricket bat, a golf club, or even a rally car.

Max McRae has the name, he has the backing and, last weekend, he had the car. All of which would have been worthless had the West Australian not had the ability to cut the mustard.

And cut the mustard he did – in incredible fashion.

McRae was competing in the opening round of the Western Australian Rally Championship, the Winvale Stages. It was his first time driving a four-wheel drive car in competition.

In true McRae family fashion, he didn’t just do well, he dominated.

Fastest on eight of the rallies 12 specials stages, Max was only denied victory when fuel problems stopped his Maximum Motorsport prepared Subaru Impreza WRX on the fifth stage.

By then, he already held a 7.4 second lead.

He returned later in the rally to continue his learning, and continued to win stages.

On the final 9.63km stage through traditional Rally Australia country north of Perth, he was fastest by a mind-numbing 25.3 seconds – faster than none other than former WA Rally Champion, John O’Dowd, in his Skoda Fabia R5.

All this with a brand new co-driver, Mac Kierans, adding to the performance.

It was a performance that even surprised the young Scottish born West Australian.

“I didn’t expect this at all. When I came back for the lunch service and people were telling me we’d set fastest times, and fastest times by like nine seconds or something, I was just like: ‘No way!’,” McRae said.

Similarly, while his dad, Alister, was confident he’d be “there or thereabouts”, he didn’t expect the youngster to be so fast!

“It was really impressive. It wasn’t just the pace, but the way he got in there and went so quickly so consistently,” Alister said.

“And the way he dealt with the fuel pump problem was great – he brushed it off and got on with the afternoon.

“When you think he’d only done about 10 kilometers [six miles] in a Peugeot AP4 car before the event – and that was the sum total of his four-wheel-drive experience… that was pretty impressive, especially that time in the last stage.

“It was dusk and there was a lot of dust about, but he still went 21s faster than anybody – I think it’s those young eyes, they’re able to see through the dust! It’s going to be hard work getting him back into the Fiesta now!”

Max McRae’s pace is there for all to see, and the rallying world appears to be at his feet.

While we’d love to see him contesting the Australian Rally Championship for years to come, one suspects that it won’t be long before his Europe bound.

And, if he isn’t already being courted by Malcolm Wilson, Andrea Adamo or Jari-Matti Latvala, he soon will be.

Peter Whitten

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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