Encouraging first day for Alister McRae on Wales Rally GB
Dec 01, 2006
Alister McRae had an encouraging first day on this weekend’s Wales Rally GB. Debuting the Toyota Corolla Super 2000 in the FIA World Rally Championship, the performance improved steadily throughout the day and on the final special stage, Alister was third fastest in Group N, the category which the new car runs in on the WRC.
After just one and a half days’ testing of the new car, McRae and the RED World Rally Team were delighted with its pace and reliability. Alister was characteristically honest about his speed at the start of the event though; “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little rusty,” he said, “but we’ve improved steadily during the day.”
The car ran without any major problems, although Alister did suffer a puncture in the first of the afternoon’s three stages. Carrying only one spare tyre and not allowed to use the anti-deflation mousse the World Rally Cars run meant he had to be careful not to pick up another which could have ended the day’s running.
He also suffered a slight brake problem but he didn’t feel this cost too much time and was something which the RED technicians should be able to resolve in the end-of-day service.
Gauging the new car’s pace against the Group N machinery which will ultimately be its competition was one of the objectives of the event. The gap at the beginning of the day was just over two seconds per kilometre to the fastest Group N cars but by the end of the first day, this was down to less than 0.5 sec/Km. On the last stage, Alister was third fastest in Group N, a remarkable achievement on the car’s first full day of competition in the WRC.
“The Super 2000 Toyota requires a totally different driving style to the Group N cars I’ve been used to,” said Alister “and I’m still learning the best way to drive it. Today’s stages were very fast – lots of fifth and sixth gear sections and we didn’t have the opportunity to test the car over those. However, for the car’s first time outside South Africa, I feel it has gone very well so far.
“Of course I’m very happy to be competing on my home round of the WRC but I’m also very encouraged by the pace of the car out of the box. The most important thing this weekend is to get as many miles on the car as possible but if we can get onto the pace of the front running Group N cars, I’ll be very pleased.”
Team Principal of the RED World Rally Team, Neil Gatt, said that he too was impressed with the car and Alister’s performance on the first day. “It was unfortunate to lose time on the fourth stage with the puncture but we are definitely moving in the right direction, as shown by the reduction in the gap to the front-runners,” he said. “We know there is a lot more potential for the car and to be running as we have been today is a very good start. I hope that we will be able to make it into the top three of Group N during the course of the event.”
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