Superb first day at Leadfoot Festival for Subaru
Accompanied by the stirring sound of bagpipes, Scottish rally star Alister McRae hurtled up the Leadfoot Festival hill climb, recording the fastest run of the first day – a 49.99secs.
He bested a record number of 135 drivers at the Hahei, Coromandel Peninsula, motorsport event in the historically significant Vantage Motorsport Subaru WRX STi, which originally belonged to the late, great Possum Bourne. McRae stormed to second last year at the Leadfoot Festival and in the words of the Subaru’s technician Paul Hayton, of Speedhub Motorsport, “we didn’t come here to come second.”
The Vantage Motorsport Subaru now has an active centre diff to assist with handling characteristics. It is also bolstered by a bigger engine – running 850hp at full boost – and is running tarmac specification, with larger brakes, rims and tyres. It is fair to say, it is a weapon this weekend.
“We’ve been quicker each run. It’s great fun, always is good fun to drive,” McRae says.
His team planned to alter the anti-lag system tonight to make it (even more) aggressive going into the qualifying runs and Top Ten Shootout tomorrow.
Subaru Brand Ambassador Ben Hunt had his Subaru WRX STi rally car on display but drove a more hill climb-specification Subaru today. The 1999 Subaru STi Coupe, owned by Hunt’s mate Dan Kane produces 450kW and finished sixth last year at the Leadfoot Festival.
Hunt recorded a 55.77sec time on his first run this morning but had issues on his second outing.
“The car just cut out and then cut back in again. My Ben Hunt Motorsport team are looking into the problem and hope to have it sorted by tomorrow morning,” Hunt says.
He will be available from 12pm to 12.30pm again tomorrow to sign rally posters and meet fans at the Subaru tent.
Two other Subaru drivers recorded some scorching practice times up the 1.6km driveway owned by motorsport legend Rod Millen. Leigh Hopper clocked 53.30secs in his 2004 Subaru STi C Spec RA and Carl Ruiterman was close behind with a 53.81secs in his 2009 Subaru WRX STi. Both have a strong chance of making the Top 10 Shootout tomorrow afternoon.
All 25 winners of Subaru’s 25 best WRXs in New Zealand competition made the trek to the Leadfoot Festival, with one driver coming all the way from Christchurch. Five lucky owners were chosen to parade their pride and joys up the driveway today and a different set of five will cruise up tomorrow.
Subaru of New Zealand Managing Director Wallis Dumper says there were some superb examples of WRXs on display.
“We had WRXs from each generation, two-door, four-door and hatches. It was an incredible sight seeing them all lined up beside our Subaru tent.”
One of the “most amazing” cars is a Subaru WRX 22b belonging to Auckland’s Bill Williams. It is one of only 400 built worldwide to celebrate Subaru’s third consecutive manufacturers World Rally Championship title in 1998. However, there are some special features on the interior that set this WRX apart from all other 22b models.
“It has the 007 build number and bears the signatures of [iconic WRC drivers] Colin McRae, his co-driver Nicky Grist, Juha Kankkunen, Richard Burns and Colin McRae,” Williams says.
Then there is the fact it has only done 8,000km.
“It is probably one of the best condition, lowest mileage ones left,” Williams says.
The Subaru pace cars – a WRX STi and a Levorg – kept the racers in check during the day as part of the partnership Subaru of New Zealand has had with the Leadfoot Festival since its inception four years ago. The car brand received a special mention from the Millens at the VIP dinner last night.
The beautiful hot weather saw hundreds of people flock to the Subaru tent to view the six Subaru models, plus the gorgeous black edition WRX, which is one of only five produced for the 25th anniversary of WRX and goes on sale in New Zealand later this month.
Sitting on the Subaru cushions and bean bags in the shade was a popular option for many Subaru fans and no doubt there will be many more flocking in to watch tomorrow’s action.
Gate sales are available, so head to the event to see who will be crowned King of Millen Mountain in 2017.
Subaru driver Alister McRae on his way to the fastest time of the first day at the Leadfoot Festival.
The 25 best WRX competition winners line-up in front of the Subaru tent at the Leadfoot Festival.
Subaru Brand Ambassador Ben Hunt with the 1999 Subaru WRX Coupe he is driving at the Leadfoot Festival.
PHOTOS: PLEASE CREDIT GEOFF RIDDER