Some of Western Australia’s most famous stages will be back in action this weekend – and the McRae name will be competing on them.
Sixteen-year-old Max McRae will undertake the biggest event of his short career on Saturday when he starts the Make Smoking History Rally south of Perth.
The event will use three classic tests from the original Rally Australia: Wellington Dam, Harvey Weir and Brunswick.
“It’s definitely a bigger event than the last one I did [Bakers Hill in July],” Ford Fiesta ST driver McRae told DirtFish.
“This event is usually a round of the Australian Rally Championship, except it can’t be because of coronavirus.
“We’re going to be doing 150 competitive kilometers [93 miles] and the longest stage in Wellington Dam at 31 kilometers [19.46 miles].
“It’s going to be a pretty big challenge to get the notes right on the recce and get everything right on the rally.
“It’s great to be driving these famous stages, places where dad [Alister McRae] would have competed.
“I know the surface will be tricky and pretty loose, but we’re 25th on the road, so I think we’re in the sweet spot with a cleaner line and hopefully not too many ruts.”
McRae’s last outing was cut short by a driveshaft failure on the fourth stage of the Bakers Hill event. Since then, the transmission has been overhauled aboard the 1600cc front-wheel drive car.
“We’ve put in some fairly late nights to get the work done,” said Max.
“The damaged driveshaft had translated into the gearbox a little bit and then we discovered the diff was quite weak.
“We’ve got some new driveshafts from M-Sport in Poland and gramps [Jimmy McRae] helped get us some new bearings sent from the UK.
“We’ve got it all sorted now and the car drove awesome when we did a test.”
Back to the revival of those classic stages. Alister McRae drove them in 2000 and 2001 with Hyundai.
The Wellington Dam test was a 27-miler in 2000, while Harvey Weir and Brunswick both made it onto the 2001 route for a loop of stages south of Perth.
“Can I remember what they were like?” said Alister, “I can’t remember what I had for breakfast!
“No, I do remember something from the roads down there – they’re fast and flowing and really nice roads.
“They haven’t been used for a long time, but I’m pretty sure they still have that typical ball-bearing surface.
“Max needs to just keep the car in the middle of the road and take some experience.
“But he’s 16 years old and we’ll just have to see what’s on his mind!
“I’ll be down there with him to keep an eye on things. I’m the chief operating officer – it’s a fairly hands-on role in this team!”
Rally Australia departed Western Australia following the 2006 season and this weekend’s event is now the state’s highest profile event.