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Mac’s back: Alister McRae leads Group N in New Zealand
Sep 01, 2007

Former works Hyundai and Mitsubishi driver Alister McRae finished the second leg of this year’s Rally New Zealand, the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, leading the Group N class and in an impressive 12th position overall. Not only has he once again demonstrated his pace and experience among his WRC peers, he also won the second heat and the overall New Zealand Rally Championship category of the event, a fitting reward for the support of local sponsors KPMG New Zealand and Waikato Milking Systems, on home soil.

McRae began the second day in third place in Group N but with a clear goal – to climb past Niall McShea, just a few seconds ahead in Group N. McRae had been making set-up changes to his Taylor Motorsport-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX throughout the first day and clearly had the car more to his liking.

In contrast to the first day, when the fast and flowing roads making up the event were wet and muddy by the time Alister came to compete on them, the second leg was dry and this helped to give Alister an advantage. He completed the first of the day’s stages where he left off but on the second, climbed a position, as Portugal’s Armindo Aruajo suffered problems and dropped back.

McRae was now on a charge to catch and pass McShea and he did this on the third stage of the day, the 32Km Franklin test. Despite McShea coming back at him, Alister was able to maintain the position for the remainder of the day, although the gap decreased to as little as less than two seconds in places. However, arriving at parc ferme in Hamilton at the end of the leg, Alister’s margin over the Irish driver was almost 30seconds, a useful cushion but one that McRae knows is nothing to rely one for the last day.

“Today has gone very well,” said Alister. “We’ve been in the top three Group N times all day and stayed out of trouble and it’s paid off exactly as we hoped for. The roads dried out nicely for us, especially in the afternoon. In hindsight, I perhaps should have taken the harder compound Silverstone tyre after service but in the end, I stuck with the medium that I’d used in the morning. It did mean, though that I had to make sure I stayed neat and tidy in the afternoon and didn’t overwork the tyres.

“The only other issue we had today was getting caught in the dust from one of the P-WRC drivers ahead of us on the first stage. They’d been off the road and come back on and we couldn’t get close enough to let them know we were there. We probably lost 15-20 seconds but as it transpired, it didn’t affect the result.

“Of course I’m very happy to be leading Group N this evening but what is just as important is winning both today’s heat of the NZRC category and the overall round. That’s a great result for Taylor Motorsport and of course, for Erin, who’s co-driving for me this weekend for the first time. But more importantly, it justifies the faith placed in us by our sponsors for this event, KPMG New Zealand and Waikato Milking Systems, both of whom have made it possible for us to be here and I’m delighted to have been able to take the New Zealand Rally Championship wins with their support.

“The confidence in the car is growing with every kilometre and Erin is working very well. The last two stages today were very quick and she didn’t put a foot wrong. That’s given me the confidence to know we can push tomorrow to make sure that we can hold this position to the end of the event. There’s still a very long way to go though, with seven stages, including two runs of the 30Km Whaanga Coast, so we can’t afford to relax just yet.”

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