Vantage Subaru driver Alister McRae has defended his title, winning the Leadfoot Festival in 49.15secs. PHOTO: GEOFF RIDDER

Scottish rally sensation Alister McRae successfully defended his King of Millen's Mountain title at the Leadfoot Festival in Hahei today, clocking a blistering time of 49.15secs in his Vantage Subaru.

He bettered his 2017 time of 49.43secs and despite oil on the track and having to bed in some new slicks late today, McRae's ultimate talent prevailed.

"The Vantage Subaru did it again. It's on auto-pilot I don't do anything," he jokes.

McRae had a heart-in-mouth moment up the top of the 1.6km hill climb when he was hurtling through the forest and went for fourth gear only to have it jump back out.

"I wasn't the most gentle, I just smashed it back in," he says.

Subaru drivers Ben Hunt (left) with his Subaru WRX STi rally car and Alister McRae with the Vantage Motorsport Subaru. PHOTO: GEOFF RIDDER.

The Coromandel Peninsula event attracted record crowds who basked in sunshine the first day and occasionally sheltered under umbrellas today. A slightly damp track made for perfect conditions for Subaru’s All-Wheel Drive cars.

McRae was on the pace right from his first run on Saturday. He clocked the quickest time out of the 135 drivers on his very first run yesterday and had already broken into the 49sec bracket by his last run on Saturday.

The Vantage Subaru might have less horsepower than last year’s 800hp-plus, with the finely-tuned engine putting out about 770hp over the weekend but the hard-working team had succeeded in making the driveability better, McRae says.

The consummate professional, he looked smooth and swift both days, powering the historically-special ex-Possum Bourne WRX STi up the hill.

“The way the car is, if you get sideways with it, it will just scrub the speed off,” McRae explains.

Subaru Brand Ambassador Ben Hunt was more than happy to dial it up in his 2015 Subaru WRX STi. He campaigns it in the New Zealand Rally Championship and kept it in gravel-spec, including the rally tyres, which gave him some extra grip advantage today on the at-times damp road.

“It was exciting running the STi in full rally trim, so we can showcase the more sideways style of an All-Wheel Drive rally car. It was fun to put on a show for the rally fans and all the other car enthusiasts,” Hunt says.

Subaru of New Zealand Managing Director Wallis Dumper says the Leadfoot Festival attracted the best of the gentleman drivers.

“Subaru has had a relationship with this event since it began in 2013 and attending for the fifth year this year, reinforced for me, why our brand keeps coming back. Alister McRae is such an approachable, humble bloke, who just happens to be an incredibly talented driver and it was an absolute pleasure to see him pilot the Vantage Subaru to first place again."

“It was also great to see our Subaru ambassador Ben Hunt compete in his rally-ready Subaru WRX STi and demonstrate how one of our production cars can do well in any situation.”

“Having our full Subaru range, including the new Legacy and Outback models, which were on display for the first time in New Zealand, combined with our new two storied viewing platform, meant we had a wonderful way to interact with our Subaru customers over the weekend,” Mr Dumper says.

Vantage CEO Craig Vincent was "really thrilled" to see McRae bring home the winner's trophy again. As Possum Bourne's former co-driver from 1996 to 2001, it was always special to see the late driver's ex-WRC 1998 Subaru WRX being campaigned so successfully still.

"We were always hopeful that he could do it again. The car is cool and the boys have done a great job at making it work so well too," he says.

Subaru’s performance cars the WRX and Levorg were out on the track doing important lead and safety car duties throughout the weekend.

To see more images check out the Leadfoot Festival album and also a video of eight-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach taking a Subaru WRX STi for a spin up the driveway on our new Subaru New Zealand Facebook page.

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