Flying Scotsman Alister McRae has done it again – winning his fourth consecutive Leadfoot Festival in a drama-filled Top Ten Shootout, which saw two cars crash off the Hahei driveway today.
Before Australia-based McRae’s final run in the late Possum Bourne’s Vantage WRC Subaru, event founder Rod Millen flew off the track in his huge-horsepower Toyota Celica.
Once he emerged from the car unhurt, the shootout continued with McRae posting a 48.31 secs time – slightly faster than his quickest qualifying time of 48.5secs yesterday but not as quick as his record-breaking 47.99 secs he set last year.
Then the 2019 runner-up, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox also exited the Coromandel track at high speed, leaving McRae with a win in the nearly 900-horsepower Subaru, which was run successfully once again by Speedhub Motorsport and the Vantage team.
McRae was philosophical about the win: “You know what you’ve got to do yourself. When people go off, everyone is trying hard. It can happen. It’s quite easy to do. We had a big slide through the trees but we were alright. I’ve been around for a few years now, so you’ve got to take it to the limit but try not to go over it,” he says.
He did contemplate turning the higher-than-ever horsepower back on the start line of the final run but settled on keeping it at maximum boost. After taking on an almost 100hp bump up from last year, McRae believes he’s reached the right amount.
“It’s got to the point now where I don’t need any more horsepower, I just need to drive a bit quicker,” he says, laughing.
Former WRC driver Hayden Paddon, of Cromwell, enjoyed his “pocket rocket” Crosskart, saying that he had good fun trying to get it under 50 secs and succeeded on his final run posting a 49.86 secs and taking second place honours.
Alister McRae took his fourth win in a row. Photo: Geoff Ridder
Fearless BRM1000 Superquad wrangler Ian Ffitch says he “didn’t want to get on the podium this way” [following the two crashes] but earned a well-deserved final spot on the podium with a 50.96 secs.
Millen describes how his ‘moment’ happened afterwards, confirming that he was “just fine. It’s part of what it’s all about.”
“I had an excellent run out of the Daytona corner and the car came on boost earlier than normal and I thought ‘this is great’ until it had too much wheel spin and slid left instead of going straight,” he says.
Vantage Principal Craig Vincent was “pretty stoked as you can imagine” to see the Subaru - which was sporting a fresh, new engine - and McRae emerge unscathed and victorious again.
“It was really hard work this time and unfortunate for Sloan – at least he holds the hill record now [47.86secs] which is something pretty special for him. It all comes down to being able to put it together on the last run and he didn’t do it. You can pretty much guarantee Alister is going to do a good job and he did exactly that," he says.
Subaru of New Zealand Marketing Manager Daile Stephens adds: “This is our eighth year at the Leadfoot Festival and I have never seen such a nail-biting finale. We’d like to congratulate Alister, Craig and their team for putting a Subaru on the top of the podium yet again!” she adds.
Off the race course, Subaru had three SUVS – the Forester, Outback and XV – out on the off-road SUV track, where many festival-attendees tested their All-Wheel Drive capabilities.
The Subaru tent was a popular place for the crowds to hang out over the two-day event. They were able to check out the range of Subaru vehicles on display, including the newly-launched Limited Edition Outback X and 2020 Impreza. Two especially-branded XV and Forester Subarus also let people know, via their signage, that the e-Boxer hybrid versions of their models were coming soon.
Subaru of New Zealand Marketing Manager Daile Stephens says: “We had lots of people registering their interest with the team at the Subaru tent. There has been a lot of online enquiry around our e-Boxer hybrids, so it was nice to be able to chat in person to potential purchasers of them.”
Subaru's performance models, the WRX and the Levorg, were the pace and safety cars and they were kept busy out on Mr Millen’s immaculate driveway doing their official duties on the all weekend as they led the competitors up and down the course.
Ben Hunt, who is a Subaru brand ambassador, enjoyed showing the Leadfoot Festival crowds just what it is that rally drivers do. The 2019 New Zealand Rally Champion says: “We got the 2004 Subaru out there with rally tyres on it and have been having an absolute ball. We’ve been trying to go as sideways as we can - representing the rally drivers,” he says.
His championship-winning Subaru WRX STI is in the workshop, getting prepared for the first national event in April, leaving Hunt with a pressure-free weekend before his competitive season begins soon.
“The weather has been fantastic in the Coromandel. Rod and Shelly have put on an amazing event once again and we are here to have fun and represent our wonderful sponsors who help us out. We’ve put on a show for the crowd and I think a lot of people out there have loved it,” Hunt says.
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