Pace has never really been a problem for Max McRae – it’s in the genes, after all.
But it’s not unfair to say that his first full season in Europe has been a challenge.
Taking on the Junior European Rally Championship with the allure of a funded rise into the Junior World Rally Championship for the season’s champion, McRae is fifth of 20 drivers after 2023’s penultimate round: Barum Rally Zlín.
Not bad at all for his first full season in Europe.
But there’s a niggling sense that it could’ve been a lot more. 2023 has been a year of results not matching the potential.
Whether it’s been persisting mechanical problems or other factors like the time penalty for an early check-in that likely cost McRae victory in Latvia, it hasn’t been a smooth ride.
And last weekend’s event in the Czech Republic was another case-in point. All weekend-long McRae demonstrated podium pace, but an overshoot on the first full day pegged him back before he crashed out of second place two stages from home.
“I’m gutted about this one,” McRae admitted. “We were caught out by a slippery hairpin and went off the road.”
A mistake the Scot was ready to own.
“This one’s on me. We’d gone so well, we hadn’t been taking risks and we were looking really good for second place.
“I’m sorry for the whole The Racing Factory team – I know how much preparation goes into an event like this and this isn’t the result anybody wanted.”
The Junior ERC title may now be an impossibility for McRae with just one round left in Hungary, but the 19-year-old is at least buoyed by what he’s been able to show when things have gone right.
“The speed we showed, the stages we won – they’re positives,” he said.
“This has been one heck of a rookie year in the European Rally Championship, but we’ll keep fighting on.
“I know Mac [Kierans, co-driver] and I have the speed; I know we can do this and I know our time will come.”
Timo Schulz backed up a superb second place on Rally di Roma with a dominant and controlled victory on Barum Rally Zlín – making it four different winners in four different cars from the first five rounds.
Fabian Zeiringer was second ahead of the championship-chasing Roberto Daprà.
Norbert Maior may have finished off the podium for the first time all season in Zlín, but the Peugeot pilot leads Daprà by four points heading into the finale.
Winner of the first two rounds, Ola Nore, is the other contender, but he was forced to skip Barum due to budget constraints.