Perth-based Scotsman Alister McRae storms up the Race to the Sky hillclimb in the Cardrona Valley yesterday to claim victory in Possum Bourne’s former Subaru WRX STi. [photo Euan Cameron]
Possum Bourne’s ex-World Rally Championship Subaru claimed the King of the Mountain title at yesterday’s Race to the Sky with Perth-based Scotsman Alister McRae at the wheel.
The former WRC driver extracted every last ounce of horsepower out of the Subaru WRX STi hillclimb car as he stormed up the 14.5km Cardrona Valley course to win in the same machine Kiwi rally icon Bourne drove to his sole Race to the Sky victory in 2001.
The poignancy of the win 12 years after Bourne’s untimely death was not lost on McRae.
“I know what Possum means to the motorsport community here so to do that in his car, for Craig [Vincent] to invite me down here, it’s been a great weekend!” he said.
Vincent was Bourne’s co-driver for five years between 1996 and 2001and his company Vantage Motorsport purchased the car from Possum Bourne Motorsport (PBMS) after Possum’s death and has “continued to race it in memory of our great mate,” says Vincent.
The Subaru nearly did not get a chance to do Possum proud as its 850hp engine failed on the final qualifying run yesterday morning. The PBMS team running it for the event had a frantic four hours swapping it over to a slightly lesser-powered engine and rebuilding it in time for the final run that mattered.
Demonstrating his incredible driving ability McRae quickly adapted to having the lower 750hp on tap and put on an impressive display as he stormed to the top of the course in 8mins:17.6secs.
“For Alister to do that job that he did, he’s such a professional,’’ Vincent, who watched the podium presentation with pride, says.
Alister McRae holds the Race to the Sky trophy he won yesterday in Possum Bourne’s former Subaru WRX STi. [photo Euan Cameron]
He recalled some of the Subaru’s history.Built in 1998 by Prodrive and contested by Finn Juha Kangas, the car was purchased by Bourne as a shell when Kangas crashed it during Rally New Zealand. PBMS rebuilt the car for the 2001 edition of Race to the Sky, and with around 600hp at his disposal, Bourne promptly won the event. Bourne contested the event in the car again in 2002 but didn’t finish due to a puncture.
The car returned to Race to the Sky each year from 2004 to 2007 with Swede Kenneth Eriksson driving. He battled mightily against Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima but could claim no better than second place during those campaigns. Since then, the car has been used only for special events such as Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour campaigning it at Rod Millen’s Leadfoot Festival in 2011 and 2012, and Australia’s Cody Croker driving it ahead of the field on the Possum Bourne Memorial Rally in 2013.
Bourne’s son Spencer (16) was on hand to present third- placed Amberley super quad rider Ian Ffitch with the fastest Kiwi trophy, engraved with his late father’s name.
“Top three is awesome,” says Ffitch.
“But really it’s all about the Possum Bourne Memorial Trophy. I was lucky to win it the first year and that was very special,” he says.
Spencer enjoyed his weekend but had one problem with the course. When asked what he thought of his ride up the hillclimb which rises 1050 metres from the Cardrona Valley into the Pisa Range, he said: “We went too slow in the safety car.”
“I know this event meant everything to Possum and it means just as much to me,” Spencer says. “In my opinion it is probably the best New Zealand event ever created.”
Australian Brent Hayward was second driving a self-built, supercharged Suzuki-poweredopen wheeler. Tajima crashed spectacularly out of contention on his qualifying run, badly damaging his Super 86 hillclimb car but emerging unscathed.
Via Media release from Subaru.co.nz