Eighteen-year-old Max McRae will drive an Opel Corsa Rally4 in this year’s FIA Junior European Rally Championship.
Having completed his rallying apprenticeship in Australia, Max will now move back to Scotland, his country of birth, to start his first season in an FIA series. That journey begins in three weeks, when he gets to drive his all-new Opel prepared by leading Portuguese team The Racing Factory (TRF).
“It’s really happening,” said the DirtFish-backed driver. “It feels slightly surreal to be talking about doing something I’ve been looking forward to for so long.
“I love Australia and I love rallying in Australia, but Europe is the place to be based if you’re looking to build a career in this sport – and I’m determined to make a career in this sport.”
Landing into the McRaes’ hometown of Lanark, Scotland, Max will find some fairly big shoes waiting for him. His grandfather Jimmy (five-time British champion), father Alister (British and Asia Pacific title winner) and uncle Colin (world champion) have all worn them. And all won in them.
“Coming back to Lanark is so cool,” said Max. “The family are all there and the rally family are there too. I’ve got a place all sorted, I can’t wait. But the thing I really can’t wait for is to meet everybody from The Racing Factory and, of course, to drive the Opel Corsa Rally4 for the first time.
“The first event is Rally Poland (May 20/21) and that’s going to be something of a baptism of fire. I land over from Australia and straight into one of Europe’s fastest gravel rallies. And just when you think the roads around Mikołajki are quick, you take a look at the second round of Junior ERC in Latvia and understand what fast roads are really all about.
“It’s going to be insane and I just want to get started.”
Talking more specifically about the Corsa, Max added: “I’ve heard plenty about the Opel. The car looks sick and it’s got some real speed. Rally4 is super-close, we know that, but we believe the Corsa is the way forward and The Racing Factory is the team to deliver the car to help us deliver the results. It’s going to be a fantastic year.”
It’s also going to be a year when a McRae drives an Opel again.
“Gramps is pretty synonymous with the Opel Ascona 400 – he had a lot of success and almost won the  European title outright with Opel, so it’s really nice to be back with a brand that was so big for him.
“Our car will be run by TRF, based close to Porto. TRF has been building its story with more and more success in the European Rally Championship. They’re a fantastic operation and a really professional team. Look at what they did with [Finnish Rally champion] Mikko Heikkala: he came so close to winning [Rally Serras de] Fafe in one of the TRF cars.
“Still being in Australia, I thought it might be tricky to get to know the guys much before I got to Europe. It’s totally not the case, I’ve talked a lot with them all and I can’t thank Aloísio [Monteiro, CEO] and Miguel [Ribeiro, team principal] for everything they have already done.”
Max meets Aloísio in person for the first time at the test in Portugal late next month.
Max said: “I’m looking forward to meeting Aloísio, Miguel and all the team properly and making some experience with them and, hopefully, celebrating some great results. Those guys know so much about competing in Rally4 and running the Opel Corsa. But, at the same time, they have huge knowledge of the levels above. It’s a fantastic opportunity for me.”
Aloísio is similarly excited to welcome Max to the team and is quick to point to the potential of this fledgling partnership.
Aloísio said: “As we have been presenting in 2023, our strategy is 100% aligned with the European Rally Championship and Junior ERC program and that is why we had to align the entire structure in this sense.
“It’s with added pride and responsibility that we have Max with us this year. We are aware the McRae name carries with it a lot of euphoria on the part of the media, but we cannot lose the focus which is to continue to be competitive and reliable in order to achieve the results we have in mind in 2023.
“I would like to thank the McRae family for the confidence in our structure and hope that this partnership lasts for many years.”
Max’s six-round Junior ERC season starts with Rally Poland in May and then progresses through further gravel events in Latvia and Sweden with asphalt events in Italy, Czech Republic and Hungary closing out the year.
Max’s 2023 program is backed by partners DirtFish, AutoOne, Specialist Helicopters, C Plant Industries, OMP, The Racing Factory and Driverrisk Management.