As well as making his first appearance behind the wheel of a Škoda, the Llandudno-based event was also Max’s maiden gravel outing in an R5 car. He settled straight into the Asset Alliance-liveried car and quickly looked at home on some of the world’s most famous stages. 

“Just seeing some of these names of these stages at the side of the road,” said DirtFish-backed Max, “they’re so cool and so famous. To come to the Clocaenog stage is something special – it’s where uncle Colin and dad celebrated their titles in 1995.

“I’d heard lots of stories about the stages, but I just wanted to get in and drive them.

“You know what? They really are as good as everybody says they are! And so are R5 cars. That Škoda was just sensational. OK, it’s not the latest, most up-to-date car, but it was pretty awesome. 

“I did some testing in Sweet Lamb a couple of days before the start, but throughout the event on Saturday I could feel the confidence coming with the car. It was really hard to know where the limits were and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a mistake.”

After something of a rollercoaster rookie season in Junior European Rally Championship, Max was looking to end 2023 with a smile. He did that on Saturday night.

“Definitely,” he said. “Like you can imagine, this is where I’m looking for the next step – to be in a Rally2 car – and to get that first event on gravel done is fantastic. 

“There were times when I felt we could have gone quicker, but, like I said, it wasn’t about that. The podium’s nice, but the experience of the car and the conditions is the much bigger take-away from today.

“I’ve had an absolute blast. I want to say a big thanks to Willie Paterson and Asset Alliance for letting me use the car, Long Rake Spar, The Cobble Shop, Iconic Auctions and Dirtfish for supporting us this weekend. It’s a great way to end this year and it totally gives me something to shoot towards in the future.

“I also have to thank Cameron Fair for jumping in and co-driving, we got on well and had a really good day. Thanks to MRF for supplying the tyres and keeping us on the road.

“Now the work starts for next year.”

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