Encouraging debut for Alister McRae in Toyota Super 2000 Alister McRae described the debut of the Toyota Super 2000R rally car in the FIA World Rally Championship on this weekend's Wales Rally GB as "extremely encouraging." Alister's pace in the...
Encouraging debut for Alister McRae in Toyota Super 2000
Alister McRae described the debut of the Toyota Super 2000R rally car in the FIA World Rally Championship on this weekend's Wales Rally GB as "extremely encouraging." Alister's pace in the car improved steadily throughout the event and culminated in four fastest stage times in Group N, the category the car will run in the 2007 WRC. However, the success was tinged with disappointment, as McRae went off the road on the final stage of the event and although the car was undamaged, he was unable to rejoin and therefore retired.
McRae and co-driver Gordon Noble had little more than a day's testing in the Toyota S2000 prior to the start of the event but despite this, they and the RED World Rally Team, the worldwide agent for the car, made significant progress optimising the car's settings to gain traction on the wet Welsh stages.
After the ceremonial start at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Thursday evening, the event began with three stages on wet roads after a night of heavy rain. Alister began the event by settling into the driving style required for the new car, which he said was different from the Group N cars he was used to. Despite this, he set stage times comparable with the midfield of the Group N pack.
However, in the first of the afternoon's stages, Alister picked up a puncture and lost time as he continued to the end of the stage. As Group N cars are not allowed to run anti-deflation mousse like the World Rally Cars, he had to be careful for the rest of the day, as his only spare was now flat. In spite of this, the gap to the front-running Group N cars dropped steadily through the day, ending at less than 0.5 seconds/kilometre deficit.
The second day again dawned wet and Alister and Gordon continued where they left off. However, Alister felt that there was more potential to come from the engine, since it seemed to be lacking some strength. The team carried out adjustments at the mid-day service and the improvements were immediate. On the first of the afternoon's stages, Alister set the second-fastest time in Group N and then went one better on the middle of the three stages, setting the fastest time in the class.
However, the elation would be short-lived, as on the penultimate stage of the day, one of the car's suspension joints failed, leading to a driveshaft being pulled out of the front differential. With no drive, Alister was unable to continue and retired from the day. However, he was to return for the third and final day under the SupeRally regulations, which allow recovered and repaired cars to continue competing.
The pace shown on the second day was again apparent as the crews competed on the first loop of two stages on Sunday morning. Alister was again fastest over both of the stages, as well as the first in the repeated loop in the afternoon. However, the exceptionally tricky conditions caught him out as they had so many other drivers. He missed a braking point on the slippery mud and slid off the road. The car was undamaged but he wasn't able to get it back onto the road. So despite an excellent showing of speed in the car, he was denied the result which he and the RED team felt was deserved.
Speaking at the service area after the event, Alister said; "I feel the event has gone very well, especially when you consider it's the car's first outing in the WRC and we carried out less than two days pre-event testing. The changes we made on the second leg clearly worked well and the four stage wins are testament to the potential of the Toyota Super 2000R.
"The small problem we had on Saturday was completely unexpected and we've identified and rectified it already, so I am confident that won't reoccur. The objective for this weekend was to get as many miles as possible on the car to learn about it's pace and behaviour on gravel and I feel we've done just that. Of course it is disappointing not to get the result that I feel we all deserve, after the effort that has gone into it but overall, I'm pleased with the weekend.
"I'd like to say a big thank you to GHI Contracts and Lloyd Helicopters for supporting us here this weekend. GHI Contracts' and Lloyd Helicopters' directors have been down here all weekend and out in the stages, cheering us on. It's gratifying to know that they have been able to see just how much potential there is in the car and be part of its debut and first class stage wins in the WRC."
RED World Rally Team Principal Neil Gatt was also pleased with the weekend's work, despite not achieving the deserved result. "If you'd asked me, on Thursday evening, if we would be pleased with four Group N stage wins over the weekend, I would have said 'Yes'. To achieve that against a field of some of the quickest and most talented Group N drivers, as we've seen here this weekend, is extremely encouraging. I'm delighted that we were able to compete on equal terms and beat those drivers, who were battling throughout the event and did not let up their pace at all. This was a quality set of fastest times and gives an indication of the car's future potential."
-credit: alistair mcrae