Five times British Rally Champion, Scotsman Jimmy McRae is the latest entrant from the northern hemisphere, to put his name down to drive in the week long NZ Silver Fern Marathon Rally, which will take place from October 7th to 14th.
McRae will be driving a performance front wheel drive Honda Integra Type R, the car which is owned by Hamilton's Gary Smith. Smith who is the rally chairman for the event, will be McRae's co-driver, as he has on the past two years Dunlop Otago Classic events that McRae has driven at.
Jimmy McRae is no stranger to New Zealand, and the pairing have a strong friendship, which goes back to 1988 when McRae drove Smith's Motogard Ford Sierra XR4x4. Smith managed the team again the following year when both Jimmy and Colin came to the New Zealand WRC event in their own Cosworth Sierra's.
Speaking from his home in Scotland, McRae said "this will only be the second time I have driven a front wheel drive car in competition, in fact the last time it was actually against this very car in the 2004 London to Sydney Marathon, when I drove a Toyota".
Smith's car was driven on that occasion by Te Puke's Mike Montgomery where it was part of the Kiwi 1-2-3 finish, which was headed by Wellington's Joe McAndrew, also in an Integra Type R Honda.
Jimmy said that he would have loved to be part of a team with one of his sons, "Colin was keen on the event too, but other event clashes have meant he can't come this time" Both Colin and Alister continue to compete regularly at world class levels.
McRae's attendance in the 1400km special stage event is strictly a budget affair with funding for the attack coming from the pockets of both McRae and Smith. The only support McRae will bring with him is wife Margaret, both of whom intend to treat the trip as yet another holiday to New Zealand.
"The objective is to come and have fun, to support the event which sounds fabulous," said McRae. As to whether the pair will be a winning combination he added "you always compete to win, but we have a limited budget for tyres etc, so we will have to see where the competition is at."
"I had been trying to get a budget together to do the event in an Escort, so I guess this is a late decision, but we just can't get long marathon events like this in Europe, and the opportunity to compete in a six day event in Gary's car was too good to refuse"
The full entry list for the event, which will take place on some of the best rally roads in New Zealand's South Island, will be released on Monday September 4th, and you can expect to see McRae's name near the top of the starters.
The NZ Silver Fern Rally will start from the Picton waterfront, at midday on Saturday October 7th, before teams compete their way around the South Island with overnight stops in Greymouth, Queenstown, Dunedin and Christchurch before returning via Nelson to the finish in Blenheim.
Event organisers would like to acknowledge the assistance of sponsors, Scenic Circle Hotels, Budget Rentals, Team Talk Mobile, Variety and Kea Campers New Zealand.
Full details of the event, are available from :- www.silverfernrally.co.nz