Max McRae column: I was stoked to get back out there!

McRae tells DirtFish about getting in his Ford Fiesta Rally4 for the first time in months after more lockdown frustration


After completing his first rally in three months on Saturday, Max McRae tells us all about it, his lockdown time, and what’s coming next, in this exclusive DirtFish column

I’ve heard this saying about absence making the heart grow fonder. I’m right with that. I hadn’t seen my Ford Fiesta Rally4 since May and I can’t tell you how much I’d missed it.

It was fantastic to get it back in Perth earlier this month, but it was even better to be back out in it again at Saturday’s Karri Rally.

The reason it had been away so long is all to do with COVID-19. I hear from gramps [Jimmy McRae] back in Lanark that things are beginning to ease a little bit at home in Scotland and that’s fantastic news – I know Britain has really been hit so hard by the pandemic. But down here in Australia, things are heading a little bit in the opposite direction.

We seem to be getting more lockdowns down here. It’s for that reason that we’re not really sure when we’ll be competing on our next ARC [Australian Rally Championship] round.

I was so stoked to be back, there’s nothing quite like throwing the car at a corner on the handbrake! Max McRae

After a year of competing in Rally WA, my local championship in Western Australia, last year it was amazing to get across the border and drive in Queensland. I loved Accent Benchtops Rally Queensland and finishing 14th overall and second in both ARC Juniors and ARC 2WD was a pretty special start for the Fiesta Rally4 and me.

After that, the car was off to Tasmania, but then everything stopped. When we knew there was nothing really confirmed for ARC, dad [Alister McRae] decided to bring the car home so we could do some WA events.

But that was pretty complicated. The border here closed and the rally car was just sitting on the road on the wrong side. What a nightmare.

Like I said, I was pretty glad to see the car again earlier this month. It was three months since I drove it last, so Saturday’s Karri Rally meant a little bit of time to settle back into driving a rally car. As well as the rallying, I’m competing in a one-make Radical race series this year and I’ve won a few rounds of that.

Driving the Radical is great and it’s really teaching me plenty about how to make the car work on asphalt, but at the same time there’s nothing quite like throwing the car at a corner on the handbrake!

I was so stoked to be back on it on Saturday. I had Bill [Hayes] back with me co-driving. Bill was working with me through my rookie season last year, so it was great to have him back in the car. For this season, I’ve got Mac Kierans with me for ARC, but he’s stuck in Sydney under lockdown. He’ll be back in the car soon enough.

Karri Rally was the first event I was going back to since I started competing. It was nice to have that bit of familiarity. Talking of familiar, the weather was pretty familiar from back home – it was raining a lot in the lead up to the event and then a fair bit during the day.

The stages are really nice and quick, but they were really slippery with the rain.

We’d lost a second pass of one stage when the recce car drowned out in a water crossing, but the only problem during the rally itself was with the screen demister. It stopped working, so dad engineered a solution and handed me a stick with a window wipe stuck to the end of it. It did the job.

Max McRae - Australian Rally Championship - Rally Queensland 2021.

Photo: Matt Jelonek

The first loop of stages wasn’t really ideal, I was too sideways. But once I chatted with dad and straightened everything up a bit, we were flying and set fifth fastest time and fastest in the class on the last stage.

I’m pretty pleased with that. The other two cars ahead of us in two-wheel drive have a lot more power than us. I was happy with the result.

It was also a great way to welcome my new sponsors Auto One and Realty Lane. I’m so grateful to those guys and, of course, to Truck Wholesale WA, APX Suspension and DirtFish for the support. Having guys like Steve [Rimmer, DirtFish owner] behind me and helping me makes all the difference and being able to let them know we’ve landed a result and a stack more experience is just fantastic.

So, Saturday was a great event and third in class and eighth overall was a good result.

Where next? I’ll be honest and I say I don’t really know! Let’s see how the pandemic plays out and what’s possible.

For now, the most important thing is that everybody stays safe. Looking forward to seeing you on the stages soon.