How Goodwood showed Max McRae is coming of age

It wasn't a stage rally, per se – but the Festival of Speed showed how much he's grown in the last few years


Colin Clark is mean. Maybe mean’s not the right word. Predictably, he doesn’t think so. Standing in the queue for Oatopia way too early on Saturday morning, there was no way of escaping his forthright views on the price of porridge.

What’s worse, I kind of had to agree. The first three days of Goodwood’s Festival of Speed had started with successive helpings of Banutty. It’s a quality breakfast. Banana, peanut butter (crunchy, naturally), honey and, of course, porridge. Across three mornings, with a latte for Scotland and an Americano for me thrown in, we’d shelled out £55.50.

The voice was momentarily silenced. The head shook.

“I’m not mean,” he said, having found his voice and used it to remind me he could have bought 80 kilos of ASDA Smart Price Porridge Oats for the same price.

Eighty kilos is a lot of porridge. But you don’t get to eat them, every morning, in the shadow of the Duke of Richmond’s rather splendid house, while watching Nasser Al-Attiyah fire Toyota’s GR DKR Hilux up the hill.


Incongruous doesn’t come close.

“I’m not mean. I’m careful.”

Carefully mean.

The Festival of Speed does not come cheap. Then again, neither does a Porsche 911 Turbo S. Both are class leaders, both are world-beaters and both very much deliver in terms of entertainment.

And last week’s Festival was deeply entertaining. Especially in the woods at the top of the hill.

The Forest Rally Stage has been part of Goodwood’s mid-summer offering since the Duke and Hannu Mikkola got their heads together to plot a trip between the trees 16 years ago.


Since then, Rick Smith and the Southern Car Club have done a quite brilliant job in running it year after year. Last week was a further reflection of that organizational capability.

It was also the first time DirtFish got involved in an official capacity. We’re working closely with Goodwood on plans for the future and hosting our Safari Rally Kenya coverage from the Festival was an initial part of that plan.

Porridge prices aside, I’ve always loved the Festival and the way it offers an opportunity for young drivers to hurl themselves very firmly beneath a very bright spotlight. I’m thinking Oliver Solberg and his insane run up the hill in dad Petter’s DS3 Supercar in 2019 – watch it again and I defy you not to re-watch and re-re-watch that second right-hander.

This time, it was the turn of another famous son. Step forward Max McRae.

Admittedly, the 18-year-old Scottish-born Aussie didn’t take the same line as Oliver, but who could blame him when he was driving DirtFish owner Steve Rimmer’s ex-Mikkola Audi Quattro E2?

It was around the same time as that Solberg Goodwood moment in 2019 that I first met big Al’s boy Max. They were in Rheola testing some of Uncle Colin’s cars. I was being nosey.

Max was a fairly bashful 15-year-old who relished the chance to drive the Subaru Legacy RS McRae had used to finish second on the 1992 Swedish Rally. And he was on it, no doubting that. Enough to widen his Gramps’ eyes in a couple of corners.


But the difference three years has made is marked. Landing on the South Downs for the first time – and with a super-successful Irish rallying debut in Donegal fresh in his mind – McRae Jr looked increasingly like the complete package and real deal.

Three years ago, he stepped aboard the Subaru and slid into a seat complete with a cushion to keep his eyes above the wheel. This time around, there was no cushion required. The driving style was forceful, committed and very firmly in keeping with the family name.

Max, it seems, has come of age.

And it’s not just the driving. Talking to him about what he did in Donegal, how he approached a completely new world and what he took from some of the most challenging Tarmac roads around was a fascinating insight. Today’s teens can all talk plenty about the challenge a rally poses (I guess YouTube and the DiRT factor come into play there), but few can talk in such depth about the feel from the car and its relationship with the road beneath it.


And to then step aboard a Ford Focus RS WRC and that most insane of Audi’s – the 1985 Group B Quattro – without so much as the blink of an eye demonstrates the same confidence and desire as the two generations which have gone before him.

Max is on something of a European rallying odyssey right now. Donegal 10 days ago, Goodwood last weekend, then his Rally2 debut at what’s going to be an emotional family gathering at Knockhill (McRae Rally Challenge) this weekend before heading Wales-ward for a British Rally Championship debut at the Nicky Grist the following weekend.

Compared with the chance to drive Knockalla at full tilt, a Ford Fiesta Rally2 for the family scrap at Scotland’s premier race track and Halfway for the first time, four days on the same couple of miles at the Festival’s forest might have seemed tame.

Max McRae Donegal Rally 2022 pic 4 Conor Edwards

It wasn’t. It was all part of the bigger picture. All part of McRae’s magic four weeks.

With Builth Wells done, it’ll be time for the long trip south. And he’ll make that journey with some amazing memories made last weekend.

What’s more, he’ll make that journey in complete agreement with Colin Clark. Yes, the Festival is an epic adventure.

But the porridge is still a wee bit pricey.

Words:David Evans

Photography:Brian Smith