The Welsh forests have been good to the McRae family down the years and third-generation star from the Scottish dynasty Max will look to write another chapter in that history on Saturday.
The 19-year-old will make his gravel debut in a Rally2-spec car on the Cambrian Rally, driving a Škoda Fabia R5. Predictably, he’s looking forward to competing in the woods where his uncle Colin was crowned World Rally champion and father Alister secured the British Rally Championship title 28 years ago.
“There’s so much history on those stages,” said Max, “it’s going to be fantastic to get in there and drive them. The priority for me is to take experience of the R5 car.
“The closest I came to drive one of these cars on gravel was at the McRae Rally Challenge last year [when he drove a Ford Fiesta Rally2], but that was mainly on the circuit.
“This is going to be quite different. It’s a chance to get out and end the year with some fun, but at the same time I know it’ll help me next season; when you’ve driven a faster car, it always makes it slightly easier to go back to something not quite so quick.”
DirtFish-backed Max will be co-driven by recently-crowned ERC3 champion Cameron Fair on the Llandudno-based event.
“Mac [Kierans, usual co-driver] is busy with work in Australia,” said McRae, “so Cameron is stepping in. He’s got experience of these stages and we’ve already talked about what to expect. We get to test together at Sweet Lamb on Thursday – that’s going to be a good opportunity to meet Cameron and the car.
“The car is the same one my sponsor Willie Paterson from Asset Alliance has been using all season, so I’ve been able to talk to him about it. It’s one of the original R5 Škodas, so it’s well-proven and I can’t wait to get in it.”
Max arrives in Wales fresh from a victorious debut in the BTRDA Rallycross Championship, where he won three from four Cross Car races at Knockhill on Sunday.
The priority is R5 experience and really valuable seat timeMax McRae
“That was a blast,” he said. “Obviously Knockhill is local to us and I really wanted to get out there and have some fun. The weather was just perfect… well, perfect for Knockhill: it was 10 degrees and not raining!
“Now the priority is R5 experience and really valuable seat time in some of these amazing stages on Saturday.”
And of those stages, Clocaenog Main will be back in use for the first time in years on Saturday. These famous roads have been out of action due to forestry operations and the installation of windfarms in the area.
While the stage remains closed to spectators, it’s a first step to reintroducing the stages where the McRae family stood and celebrated two of world rallying’s most prestigious titles in 1995.