Mazda snares McRae

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels - STEPHEN OT­T­LEY

MAZDA is bring­ing out the big guns for this year’s Targa Tas­ma­nia. For­mer World Rally Cham­pi­onship ace Alis­ter McRae will join the team for next month’s race.

Fin­ish­ing 10th out­right last year fired up Mazda for a two-car as­sault on this year’s event.

McRae will join Rick Bates and the pair will drive match­ing Mazda3 MPS hot hatches.

Targa Tas­ma­nia is Aus­tralia’s pre­mier tar­mac rally and has al­ways had a strong draw for man­u­fac­tur­ers look­ing to show off new per­for­mance prod­ucts.

McRae, younger brother of the late Colin McRae, is now based in Perth and has been look­ing for rally drives lo­cally.

‘‘Hav­ing com­peted all over the world in ral­ly­ing at all lev­els, it’s great to have a new chal­lenge, and do­ing it with Mazda will be great fun,’’ McRae says.

‘‘Com­pet­ing in an en­durance event is com­pletely new for me. But hav­ing driven in more than 30 tar­mac events it will be a case of driv­ing as usual and keep­ing in mind that it’s not a flat-out sprint.

‘‘My strat­egy will be to en­sure a fin­ish, but I am com­pet­i­tive by na­ture, so I want to fin­ish as high up the leader board as pos­si­ble.’’

Af­ter his strong per­for­mance last year, Bates is con­fi­dent the big­ger team can go bet­ter this time around.

‘‘We got a great re­sult last year, but to go one bet­ter is the aim,’’ Bates says.

‘‘Hav­ing Alis­ter on the team will make for some good, healthy com­pe­ti­tion and I am sure we’ll egg each other on.’’

Mazda’s rac­ing pro­gram will con­tinue to be mas­ter­minded by Al­lan Hors­ley. He was re­spon­si­ble for the com­pany’s dom­i­na­tion of the Bathurst 12-hour pro­duc­tion-car race in the early 1990s.

Change of pace: Alis­ter McRae (above) and Rick Bates (be­low) will drive match­ing Mazda3 MPS hot hatches.

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