Max McRae wants to make a name for himself

His family name may evoke memories of the BRC's past, but Max McRae is fully focused on building his future

Max McRae – Ford Fiesta

There was plenty of fanfare earlier this week when Max McRae was announced as an M-Sport driver in the British Rally Championship. It evokes memories of BRC’s heyday: Jimmy in a Ford Sierra, Colin in a Subaru Legacy, Max’s father Alister in a Nissan Sunny. Now it’s Max’s turn with a Ford Fiesta Rally2.

It’s easy to get drawn into nostalgia. But this dalliance in the British championship – four rounds, not a full season – is not about reliving the past. It’s about building a future – one where Max McRae is known for his own story, not those from his family’s past.

“I think people are starting to see me more as a driver for myself now, it’s not about Colin being my uncle, Alister being my dad and having Jimmy for gramps,” said McRae.

“People seem to know my name a bit more now and I think that’s quite cool. I know I have a job to do this year in Britain, but a lot of this is about learning.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s really cool that I’m the third generation in my family to be competing in the British championship. I don’t remember any of their stuff, but I’ve watched so many videos of gramps in the Sierras and dad and Colin. It means a lot to be competing in the same championship they’ve all won. It’ll be special and, of course, it’s a great opportunity to get some seat time in a Rally2 car.”

There’s also a need to be realistic. McRae isn’t going to charge gloriously into the history books on arrival in the BRC. Improved depth in the BRC entry list means he’s a relative Rally2 newcomer up against a swathe of crews with mantlepieces filled with accolades already won.

McRae’s experience in Rally2 amounts to one BRC start last year, plus what was effectively a circuit rally at Knockhill for the McRae Rally Challenge two years ago; the mixed-surface event at least gave McRae “an idea of the chassis, the power and where all the buttons are” but it’s nothing like the lanes of northwest England that he’s never seen before.

And then there’s who he’s up against to consider: four-time champion Keith Cronin, 2022 champion Osian Pryce, WRC2 regular Chris Ingram, Junior WRC champion William Creighton and other BRC regulars in the mix means a podium finish is likely well out of reach.


McRae drove a Fiesta Rally2 at Knockhill in 2022, but his car this year will be brand-new

“Honestly, I’m not going to be looking at the results on the North West,” said McRae. “I’ll just be trying to find my feet in the car and work with the engineers. Realistically, with the entries out there, a top-10 or maybe a top-eight finish would be good. I’d be happy with that.

“I’m thinking more in terms of progression in stage times. The key is to see some improvement through the weekend, but it’s going to be a big challenge given this is my first real Tarmac event in a Rally2 car.”

His BRC season in the car starts at the North West Stages on March 23. But out of the car it starts earlier – while his Fiesta is being built by M-Sport, McRae will be shadowing Garry Pearson, his BRC team-mate, at the Malcolm Wilson Rally: “I’ll go to that event and spend time with the mechanics, the engineers – it’s really useful to be around the team on an event,” said McRae.

The significance of making his first steps in the BRC with the same team his world championship-winning uncle Colin drove for between 1999 and 2002 is not lost on young Max. But, of course, Colin wasn’t the only one.

Rally di Germania 2002

Colin McRae took nine WRC wins in M-Sport machinery

“Dad also drove one of Malcolm Wilson’s Escorts on the 1995 Rally GB,” McRae pointed out. “But, for me, it’s just like: M-Sport! And a new car, like a brand-new car! Every time I think about that I just can’t stop smiling.

“As well as that, it’s fair to say we had some hard results recently – we just couldn’t get a break last season. Working with M-Sport, I really have the feeling that I can focus completely on the driving and what I’ve got to do.

“There’s so much experience in that team, it’s incredible.”

And there’s naturally plenty of experience in the family. McRae is currently staying in Lanark, at the home of family patriarch Jimmy; “gramps”, as Max always calls him.

Max McRae / Alistair McRae / Jimmy McRae - Ford Fiesta

The three generations of McRaes: Alister (left), Jimmy (middle) and Max (right)

M-Sport knows the car and the rallies. But even after so long away from front-line competition, gramps is still providing invaluable advice as young Max makes his way up the ladder.

“For the North West, it’s tricky – obviously it’s not an event he ever did,” said McRae. “He’s really good at the kind of bigger picture stuff. It was like in Donegal a couple of years ago, he knows just how to keep your head in the right place and the reminders about taking the experience. He’s seen it all.

“Dad will be over for the North West and he has a little bit more relevant experience, he’s driven a few R5 and Rally2 cars so he knows where the car’s at in terms of set-up. But, honestly, I have to figure this stuff out. And, like I said, there’s so much experience at M-Sport that I can rely on.

“One thing that’s definitely going to be cool is competing at home with the British fans. There’s so much love for the McRae family name and it’s so special to go to events and feel that emotion and see what the name still means to people.”


The DirtFish driver finished a sensational third on his four-wheel drive BRC debut on last October’s Cambrian Rally

Max wants to build his own story. But as he just pointed out, there’s plenty of people coming out to see him because of how significant the dynasty he came from remains. No pressure then?

“I’ve told you, there’s no pressure. I’m just going to drive a very cool rally car on some very cool roads and learn stuff.

“I can’t wait, mate.”