Sixteen-year-old Max McRae made a strong gravel rally debut at Saturday’s WA Bakers Hill Sprint in Australia, running fourth in his class before a transmission problem sidelined his Ford Fiesta ST.
McRae has competed on a variety of asphalt single-venue events and sprints, but turning 16 last month meant he could take to the dirt with ‘L’ plates. Co-driven by Bill Hayes, his father Alister’s co-driver, the latest generation of rallying’s most famous family was making solid progress when a driveshaft failed on SS4.
“It was great to get going,” Max told DirtFish.
“I’d been looking forward to that moment for a while. I was a bit nervous going up to the start of the first stage, but once we got going and got into the first stage it went well.
“The first two stages were great and we were running well, the third stage was good as well, but then I felt the car started to grab on the left front wheel.
“We got out of the stage and changed the shaft, but there was a lot of noise going into the fifth stage – I think something was damaged in the diff.
“We pulled over rather than do more damage. It’s a tough one.”
Despite his early exit, McRae admitted the experience had taught him plenty.
“Doing the recce and knowing the notes we made were good was really positive,” he added.
“We made a two-pass recce first thing – which meant Dad and I leaving home at four in the morning – but it worked.
“The corner speeds and distances were right, the only thing I was changing was adding in some detail when rocks were being exposed by cars in front. Everything worked well with Bill.
“The stages were good, there were a few ruts coming in places – but one of the tricky things was the clay which had been used to regrade the road.
“We’d had a bit of rain in the days leading up to the event and it was really slippery where the clay had been laid down.”
McRae’s next Rally WA outing is the Make Smoking History Rally (September 3), but there could be the chance of another non-championship event at the Winvale Park Complex, east of Perth where he competed on Saturday.
Alister was impressed with Max’s start, saying: “It was all going to plan before the problem with the shaft. We’ll have a look at it and then need to get some testing done to make sure we’ve found the problem.
“First we’ve got to give the thing a good wash down, that’s Max’s job first thing in the morning!”