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Promising start for Alister in New Zealand
Apr 15, 2007

Scot Alister McRae enjoyed a promising start to his 2007 New Zealand Rally Championship campaign this weekend, when he finished the first round, the Rally of Otago, seventh in the NZRC category. However, the result belies his performance, which saw him running as high as second overall, before mechanical problems dropped him to eighth overall by the end of the two-day event. The scoring system used in New Zealand though, means that he now lies fifth in the championship after the first event.

The first round of the championship was based in Dunedin, at the bottom of the South Island and was held in familiar conditions for the Scot; rain and mud. Alister admitted that it was a difficult event to tackle for his debut in NZ. He described the stages as very similar to those in Finland for the country’s round of the WRC, with very fast sections over blind crests. He also said it was difficult using organiser’s-provided pace notes and just a single pass over the stages on the recce and therefore, he adopted a conservative approach to the first group of stages.

However, he gradually built up speed and confidence during the course of the first day and was rewarded with third place overall as the crews returned to parc ferme and the overnight halt.

The second day began well, with Alister settling into a good rhythm and climbing to second overall by the end of the day’s second stage. However, his N10 Subaru Impreza soon began to experience electrical problems and the crew incurred road penalties in the first group of stages, adding 30seconds to their total time. This was then compounded when the car began cutting out in the next stage, costing a further 90 seconds and dropping Alister and co-driver Steve Smith to eighth.

Having rectified the problem at the mid-day service, Alister was then hampered by a malfunctioning centre differential in the four-wheel drive system, which caused a lack of traction and consequently, even more lost time. However, he went on to finish the event in eighth place outright and seventh in the NZRC category after two days of competition.

“I’m disappointed not to have got a better result after a good start,” said McRae at the event’s finish in Dunedin. “However, I’m pleased to get some points on the board after the first round. As the NZ championship awards points after each day, it means that we are now fifth in the championship overall, which isn’t a bad result, all thing considered.

“A lot of people have said that this event is probably the toughest one in the championship, thanks to the nature of the stages and the fact that the route hasn’t really changed for ten years, meaning regulars have something of an advantage. However, the next round is on the North Island and uses some of the stages which form part of the WRC round, so hopefully the advantage may swing my way then.”

A new team is running Alister in NZ, the Proflex Motorsport team, set up by the distributor of Proflex suspension components. “The Proflex Motorsport team worked very well this weekend,” Alister said. “We had a day’s testing prior to the start of the event and found a good set-up with the car. For such a young team, it worked extremely well.

“I’m extremely grateful for the support we’ve received so far, from Proflex, Silverstone tyres and Norwood Farm Centres. But we’re still working hard to secure the remainder of the budget to be able to contest the full championship.”

The next round of the 2007 New Zealand Rally Championship is the Rally of Whangarei, based in the coastal town located 250Km north of Auckland. It begins with a ceremonial start on the evening of Friday 11 May before two full days of competition on Saturday and Sunday 12 & 13 May.

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