While South African Giniel de Villiers clinched a historic Dakar Rally victory for Volkswagen, taking the first diesel-powered win in the event in its first year in its new South American location, Alister McRae celebrated completing the event at his first attempt.
The former British Rally champ, was a late entry to the event driving one of four diesel-powered McRae Enduro cars which he and brother Colin developed specifically to tackle the world’s most gruelling rally.
“It’s fantastic to get to the finish on our first attempt,” the Lanark driver admitted today after arriving in Buenes Aires, Argentina. “My main priority was to act as sweeper and back-up to the three customers in case they ran into trouble.
“Of course that meant I had to hold back and not be as competitive as I wanted to be, but we’ve achieved what we wanted to by getting three cars to the finish. I’m well chuffed, but it’s been bloody hard.
“You can’t believe the punishment the car takes. You expect it to be tough and hard on the car, but not like it is. And it’s continual; it just never, ever stops.
“I thought it would be a bit like the Acropolis Rally, where you get 10 or 15 kilometres of rough stuff, but then you get good stuff. So maybe 20%, 30% of the stage is bad. Here, I thought it would be the same. But it was 90% bad and 10% okay.”
While older brother Colin set two fastest times en route to finishing on his debut in his Nissan back in 2004, Alister’s performance was necessarily more sedate as he regularly stopped to assist his three McRae Enduro drivers.
The Scot eventually finished 39th of the 88 finishers, one place behind his Dutch team-mate Michel de Groot, and a massive 50hrs 21mins 34secs behind the VW of winner de Villiers.
The South African, who drove in the same Nissan team as Colin in 2004, pipped his new VW team-mate, American Mark Miller, by 8mins 59secs. Former world rally champ Carlos Sainz crashed his VW out when leading comfortably on Thursday. McRae meanwhile is already planning for next year.
“My performance wasn’t what was important this year,” McRae continued. “The priority was getting the McRae Enduro cars to the finish. That’s what we achieved and now we can really start planning our assault for the 2010 Dakar.”
Meanwhile Glasgow’s Ewan Buchan wrote his own piece in history when he became the first Scot to complete the Dakar Rally on two wheels. But the 41-year-old KTM rider headed for hospital immediately after crossing the line nursing a suspected broken ankle.
“That was the toughest event I’ve ever tackled,” explained the Scot, who finished 90th of the 113 bikers who managed to complete the event won by Spain’s Marc Coma on another KTM.
“Unfortunately I had a bit of an accident on the last section and may have broken my ankle. I’m in a fair amount of pain and have been advised not to take my boot off until I reach a hospital.
“But I’m so proud to be the first Scot to have managed to complete the Dakar Rally on a motorbike. Brilliant.”