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The hottest rumour in New Zealand rallying was today confirmed with the registration of Scotsman Alister McRae for the Vantage Aluminium Joinery 2007 NZ Rally Championship.

The 36 year-old brings with him a wealth of experience, and arguably the most famous surname in world rallying. Brother to former World Champion Colin, and son of perennial British favourite Jimmy, Alister has himself excelled at the highest level, and will pose the sternest test ever faced by New Zealand’s domestic competitors.

Alister first burst onto the British rally scene in the late 80’s, securing national 1300cc titles in his native Scotland. He then cemented his reputation in 1992, securing the prestigious Shell Scholarship, before finally following in his father’s footsteps by winning the British title outright in 1995, at the wheel of a factory Nissan Sunny.

The manufacturers teams soon came running to snare this enviable talent. From Nissan, he swiftly moved to a Formula 2 VW Golf, before graduating as a full-works driver for Hyundai in 1999. Initially in a front-wheel drive Coupe, this seat soon turned into an Accent WRC, and a full tilt at the World Championship.

In 2002 McRae changed camps by moving to Mitsubishi. This proved to be a difficult year for the marque, and their withdrawal from competition saw Alister set his sights on the Production World Championship for Group N cars. The 2004 title was almost his, until cruelly robbed by mechanical failure on the final round.

Alister has remained firmly in local media’s sights in recent years. Current national champion Richard Mason has had to fight McRae tooth and claw for every second in the Chinese national championship, while Neil Allport Motorsport celebrated an historic African win when Alister brought their Mitsubishi Evo 8 home first in the 2006 Zulu Rally.  

McRae’s team for a tilt at the New Zealand national title will have a distinctly Kiwi feel. The car, a Possum Bourne Motorsport-prepared Subaru Impreza, was successfully campaigned in the 2006 Rally Extreme series by Manawatu’s Robbie Leicester.

The Proflex Suspension NZ, and Norwoods Farm Machinery-backed entry, will be maintained by a full New Zealand service team, while two top local co-drivers are under consideration for the navigator’s spot.

McRae’s first appearance will be at the opening round of the 2007 Vantage Aluminium Joinery championship, Rally Otago on April 13-15. To have a driver like Alister, with over 70 World Championship rallies to his name on the start line, means everyone else is going to have to lift their game.

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