Busy two weeks for Alister McRae
The next two weeks will be flat-out in more ways than one for former British Rally Champion and works WRC driver Alister McRae. The Scot is competing in Rally China this weekend, the final round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship before literally boarding a plane to the UK the moment the event finishes, to contest the Rally of Scotland, his home event and final round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Following last month's positive outing in the works Proton Satria Super 2000 rally car, McRae is again driving the official Satria on both events. While the team suffered technical issues on the extremely rough stages in Indonesia, it has modified several key components for this weekend's event in China, which will use the same car as in Indonesia.
A one-day test prior to the start of the recce in China showed that revised dampers gave the car a more balanced and stable feeling over the rough test road while modified steering components have also been fitted.
While the conditions in China in the run-up to the event are wet, according to McRae, the roads appear to be harder and less likely to become rough than in Indonesia, with a compacted rocky base. However, despite this, he still feels it will be a tricky event.
"I've been to China for the rally three times before but never to this event in this region. Looking at on-board videos from previous years and the test road, while it looks to be a reasonably solid base, the roads are very narrow and twisty, so it's going to be hard work.
"The aim this weekend is to get a solid finish for Proton. The Mellors Elliot Motorsport team has done a fantastic job of developing new parts in light of what we learned in Indonesia and I'm looking forward to the weekend. I hope that perhaps the weather will improve, it'll stop raining and we'll have a clean run to show what the car is capable of and get a solid result.
"It's not going to be easy though; there's a very strong top ten this weekend. There's Cody Crocker, Katsu Taguchi, Emma Gilmour, Dean Herridge, David Higgins, Jusso Valimaki and Juha Salo, so I think there will be some good scraps."
The event begins with a superspecial stage in the evening of Friday 12 November, before two full days of action on Saturday and Sunday. The first cars are expected to finish the event at around 4pm on Sunday afternoon, which is where Alister's next round of activity begins.
As soon as he has completed the event, he begins a five-hour drive to Shanghai to catch a plane to the UK, to arrive in Perth, Scotland just in time to begin the recce for the final round of the IRC, the RACMSA Rally of Scotland. He will again be driving the Proton Satria S2000 but this time, on home soil and the prospect understandably has him excited.
"I'm really looking forward to competing at home again," he said. "I've done some of the stages that make up the event as they formed part of the McRae Stages rally and some were also part of the British Rally Championship when I competed in the mid 1990s.
"MEM is putting the finishing touches to the car for Scotland in the UK now and hopefully, we'll have a chance to carry out a small test before the event but realistically, I think it'll be little more than a shakedown, because of the tight deadlines with me arriving. Again, this car will use the revised components and a few more changes as we move forward in what is effectively the car's first year of competition and development."
The event begins with a double-run of the superspecial stage at Scone Castle on the evening of Thursday 19 November before two days of action in the Scottish Forests on Friday and Saturday 20 and 21. The first car is expected over the finish ramp at Stirling Castle at around 4.30pm on Saturday 21 November.