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New car but hopefully same result in China
Jul 17, 2006

Lanark-based Alister McRae returns to China this weekend (22/23 July) for the second round of the Chinese Rally Championship (CRC), the Liupanshui Rally in Guizhou province. McRae will swap his group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvoVIII for the latest specification EvoIX and will be hoping for a repeat of his performance on the opening round, which he won convincingly.

The second round of the series takes the crews deeper into the Chinese countryside, to mountainous territory and more challenging stages. McRae explains: “The first round was held in the outskirts of Shanghai, so the stages were a bit formulaic; straights and square junctions mainly. But from what I understand of the next event, the stages are twistier, with a variety of narrow roads and more open, flowing ones.”

The Liupanshui Rally consists of 12 gravel stages, six separate roads each double-run. The events in the Chinese Championship run to a format familiar to regular drivers, with loops of two or three stages interspersed with a return to the central service park. The final round of the championship is also a round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, so the domestic series adopted the standard organisation for its events.

“The series works very well,” said McRae prior to leaving for China. “Once you arrive, the information and organisation are very good. The Wanyu Rally Team itself is also impressive – better than I expected, if I’m honest.

“Competition in the series is also pretty close. David Higgins and Martin Rowe are doing it, so in some ways, it’s a bit like a re-run of the fights we used to have in the British Rally Championship! There are also a couple of Finnish drivers, including my team-mate Juha Salo and a local driver Chi-Lu, who are very quick.”

McRae cannot score points for the Chinese drivers’ championship – only Chinese nationals can – but his results count towards the overall team awards. “We won the first event in the championship and that’s the aim for every event in the series,” he said. “It’s a great championship and like many things in China, is developing at an incredible speed.

“This week, we arrive on Monday and test the new car on Tuesday. The recce is Wednesday and Thursday with a ceremonial start on Friday evening. Then the rally itself is Saturday and Sunday.” The crews will compete 180 stage kilometres over the two days before returning to the finish on Sunday evening.

For 2006, McRae has Gordon Noble co-driving with him, a new in-car relationship. “The first event Gordon and I did together was the first round in China, which we won,” he said. “Since then, we’ve also done the Zulu Rally in South Africa [a candidate event for the FIA World Rally Championship] which we also won, as well as an event in Ireland and the Pirelli International in the UK. The relationship is working well in the car.”

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