Max McRae needs to listen to his five-time British Rally Champion grandfather Jimmy more than ever this week as he prepares for his first shot at a blind rally.
The 16-year-old son of Alister McRae tackles the Safari Darling Rally on Saturday – but he does so without the aid of pacenotes for the first time. McRae’s co-driver Bill Hayes will instead be guiding him off the roadbook, on the five-stage Jarrahdale-based event south of Perth.
Jimmy McRae, who picked up five BRC titles between 1981 and ’88, took the vast majority of his early career wins without pacenotes and he says it’s a very different skill to driving with notes.
“Max will need to drive with a little bit less commitment,” McRae told DirtFish. “When you’re on a blind rally, you need to just keep a little bit in reserve and be ready for the road to go 90-right when you’re not really expecting it.
“I remember doing events like the Circuit of Ireland where we had maps rather than just the roadbook, but the maps weren’t all that good and it was so easy to get caught out. You needed to be a lot more adaptable and drive much more on what you can see.
“When you’re on notes, you can commit to a corner and a crest. You can’t on maps. Another part of this is about not getting frustrated, if Max lifts before going over one crest where he didn’t need to, he can’t go quicker over the next blind crest. He needs to be ready for that.
“I did the Midnight Sun Rally last year and that was without notes. I went into the first stage, had a bit of a moment and thought: “Oh bloody hell…” After that, I let the locals go – obviously they knew the roads better than me – and I just enjoyed myself.”
Seeded at car 10 for the event, McRae arrives at the WA finale on the back of a fine second in class and top-10 overall on the Making Smoking History Rally in October. More recently, Alister’s son starred at Perth’s Wanneroo Raceway, winning three races in a Radical last weekend.
“He’s got Bill with him, he’ll be fine and I’m sure he’ll have a lot of fun and enjoy the event. It’s another good opportunity to get some more experience from the car.”