Determined drive nets team points in China
Jul 24, 2006

Despite a frustrating start, former works Hyundai and Mitsubishi driver Alister McRae claimed valuable points for the Wan Yu Rally Team this weekend, on the second round of the Chinese Rally Championship, the Liu Panshiu Rally.

His Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EvoIX suffered a light roll on the first stage of the event and the crew lost ten minutes getting the car back on the road. However, Alister and co-driver Gordon Noble spent the rest of the event pushing hard to secure points for the team and develop the EvoIX, in advance of the third round in September.

Alister spent a day testing his new Lancer EvoIX prior to the start of the event but with new dampers and a different centre differential control system to the EvoVIII he drove on the previous round; this effectively became a shakedown for the Liu Panshiu. Alister and Gordon were looking forward to competing on the event in the latest specification of Group N Mitsubishi, over 12 twisty and bumpy mountainous stages.

However, the first stage of the event was to set the scene for leg one. McRae explained what happened; “It was a tightening left-hand corner and the car slid wide. The rear wheels went off the road and into the ditch by the side and that pitched the car into a roll, into a paddy field. The damage wasn’t severe, although the windscreen came in and the car was filled with mud and peat – it’s the biggest mess I’ve ever seen! It took us around 10 minutes to get the car out and back on the road.”

The Wan Yu team carried out repairs at the service park but the car wasn’t fully on form. They changed one of the steering arms but didn’t have sufficient time during service to check the alignment of the suspension and as it transpired, the settings were incorrect. This cost the Scot further time with unpredictable handling through the following stages. The team was also using a new specification of damper, and the settings were not to McRae’s liking. The result was that at the end of the first day, McRae and Noble lay in 21st position overall.

However, Alister remained focussed on the final day of the rally, despite the time loss. “Drivers score points for the teams’ awards on both days of the rally, so there’s still a lot to play for,” he explained at the end of the first day. “We’ll be going at maximum attack tomorrow to get the best result possible for the team.”

The second day of the event was more typical of McRae’s form and saw him immediately back on the pace. With the time loss from the first day’s accident, he realised that he would be unable to realistically climb back up the leader-board to challenge for the win, he also concentrated on developing suspension and differential settings ready for the next round of the championship.

“With the new dampers on the car, when we got to the bumpier stages, it wasn’t working for me at all,” he said. “So we spent the day getting it to suit my driving style and we accomplished a lot. We’ve still go a few changes to make but we’ve got a very clear idea of the direction we need to go in now.”

His efforts were rewarded though, as he claimed third place in the points for the team score during the day, after setting top three stage times on each of the tests and finished the event 12th overall.

“It’s a shame we lost that amount of time on the first day,” he said at the end of the event. “I think that without it, we’d definitely have been fighting for a podium position or the win. But we made a lot of progress with the car over this event and finishing third in the points on the second day will have helped the team.”

The event was won by Finn Jarkko Miettinen, with Brit David Higgins second and another Finn, Juha Salo third. Both Higgins and Salo run under the Wan Yu team banner and are team-mates to Alister.

The third round of the Chinese Rally Championship is the Gui Zhou Rally and runs over the weekend of 22/23 September.


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