Wheelstories

He’s the Mcrae brother who headed wide-open for Down Un­der

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

Alis­ter Mcrae’s life in Oz

AN IN­TER­NA­TIONAL WRC driver, bear­ing one of ral­ly­ing’s most fa­mous names, meets a lo­cal lass dur­ing Rally Aus­tralia. Ro­mance blos­soms, mar­riage and kids en­sue, and even­tu­ally, they set­tle in Perth. That’s how it hap­pened for Alis­ter Mcrae, 47, though there’s a lot more light and shade to his story – in­clud­ing the bright star of his older brother, the late Colin Mcrae.

Alis­ter is the mid­dle of three sons to Jimmy Mcrae, five-time Bri­tish rally cham­pion. Alis­ter raced mo­tocross from age 13 be­fore mak­ing his rally de­but, in 1988, on the lo­cal Kames Stages rally, as had older brother Colin three years ear­lier.

“My ca­reer then pro­gressed from Scot­tish cham­pi­onship to Bri­tish cham­pi­onship, to do­ing some WRC rounds with Nissan and Volk­swa­gen For­mula 2 … In For­mula 2 we won the 1000 Lakes Rally Fin­land, beat­ing [Harri] Ro­van­pera and [Toni] Garde­meis­ter. To go to Fin­land and beat them in their own back­yard, that was def­i­nitely one of the high­lights.” His F2 ef­forts took him to WRC new­comer Hyundai in 1999, de­vel­op­ing the Ac­cent WRC that he would drive in 2000.

Was the Mcrae name a help, or a hin­drance?

“Colin ob­vi­ously fol­lowed in our fa­ther’s foot­steps, but out­grew them when he got to WRC. But I had it with my fa­ther in the Bri­tish, then with Colin in the WRC … In the early years it’s a mas­sive help. But as I pro­gressed, peo­ple were of the opin­ion that there can’t be two brothers that can do as good a job.”

Alis­ter moved to Mit­subishi for 2002, co­in­cid­ing with the un­com­pet­i­tive Evo VIII WRC. For 2004 he signed for the Pro­duc­tion WRC in a pri­va­teer Subaru. But by then, he had pleas­ant dis­trac­tions out­side of work.

“I met Tara when I was here in 1999 with Hyundai. She was work­ing at the Sher­a­ton, and we started chat­ting…

“Tara came over to Scot­land and we ended up get­ting mar­ried there, and hav­ing our kids [Em­mie, 15, and Max, 14]. But I love Perth – the fact you can jet ski, mo­tor­bike; there’s sun­shine most of the time … we de­cided we’d come out and give it a go be­fore the kids started school.”

Colin’s fa­tal he­li­copter crash was in Septem­ber of that year [2007].

“Well, ev­ery­body’s got their opin­ions of him and his driv­ing. But there was a lot more to him – he was very me­chan­i­cally sym­pa­thetic in cars, he won events where he didn’t drive flat out. But he did have that ‘I want to win and I want to win every­thing’…”

Set­tled in Perth, Alis­ter was still driv­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally, win­ning the 2011 Asia-pa­cific Rally Cham­pi­onship with Pro­ton. He also raced his KTM 500 en­duro bike in the 2013 Aus­tralian Sa­fari, win­ning the pro­duc­tion class.

“I also started a part­ner­ship in a driver and safety train­ing busi­ness here. Mo­tor­sport coach­ing was the fun side of the busi­ness, but the bulk was in mine-site cer­ti­fi­ca­tion; safety train­ing for min­ing, oil and gas com­pa­nies.”

He and Tara are these days part­ners in a Perth gym, Mcrae Fit­ness. Driv­ing these days is mostly for fun.

“I still do a bit of coach­ing and train­ing. The driv­ing I do now is, I don’t want to call it ‘demon­stra­tion’, but ba­si­cally events like the Good­wood Fes­ti­val of Speed. Re­cently I was in the US with Dirt­fish, a rally school in Seat­tle. While I was there I also did some film­ing work in a Lan­cia 037. In New Zealand, we’ve done quite a few hill­climbs with the Van­tage Subaru.

“I look now at what my dad’s do­ing. He’s still driv­ing rally cars at 75 and still go­ing fairly quickly. I think that’s pretty spe­cial.”

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