PHOTO: Colin McRae’s fearless high-jumps on the Bunnings stage in WA thrilled fans (YouTube pic)
THIS week marked the 10th anniversary of the death of 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae, a legend of the sport who enjoyed huge success on the stages and whose determination and charisma made him a global household name.
The Scot made his name at the Prodrive-run Subaru team in the 1990s, before stints with Ford, Citroën and Skoda.
He claimed 25 WRC wins from 146 starts and in 1995, aged 27, became the youngest driver to win the drivers’ world title. The record remains unbeaten.
McRae made 11 starts in the Perth-based edition of Rally Australia between 1993 and 2005, first driving a Subaru Legacy, then an Impreza, Ford Focus, Citroën Xsara and finally a Skoda Fabia.
He won Rally Australia in 1997 in an Impreza, co-driven by Nicky Grist. Images of his massive, fearless jumps on the Bunnings stage are some of the most enduring in the Australian archive.
True to his “if in doubt, flat out”, motto, McRae was always one of the most exciting drivers to watch and he’s remembered as much for his bravery and spectacular crashes as he is for his successes. Fans loved him either way and McRae had no shortage of them, thanks in part to the bestselling video game that bore his name.
Eleven months after his final WRC appearance at the 2006 Rally of Turkey, McRae lost his life in a helicopter crash in Scotland on 15 September 2007, along with his son Johnny and two family friends.
McRae’s influence is still felt in the WRC community. Scottish flags bearing his name are a familiar feature on the stages and he is often cited as an inspiration by the current WRC drivers, most notably Kris Meeke, who dedicated his maiden WRC victory at the 2015 Rally Argentina to his former mentor.
“People talk about sporting legends and 10 years after he passed away and two decades after his heyday in the World Rally Championship, Colin McRae remains one of the most recognised and iconic names in rallying,” said David Richards, the Scot’s Colin’s team principal at Subaru when he won the world title.
“This only goes to show the dramatic impact he had on the sport at the time and how single-handedly Colin took it from the sports pages to the front pages of the national press. This is the reason he will always be a sporting legend.”
M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson masterminded McRae’s Ford years from 1999 to 2002.
“Colin was such a dynamic and exciting driver. Thousands of fans – from all over the world – would flock to the stages to witness his flat-out style and no one can deny his influence in the popularity of the sport,” Wilson said.
Thanks to wrc.com, we remember Colin with five magic moments from his incredible WRC career.
1: Never give up in Finland
Early in his stint at Subaru, McRae’s brief from Prodrive for the 1992 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland was to take it easy and build experience. Instead, he delivered a characteristic mix of flat-out speed, bravery and determination. His refusal to give up at the wheel of a battered Legacy, despite rolling again and again, grabbed headlines and earned him hero status among rally fans the world over.
2: First WRC triumph
Promoted to the Subaru World Rally Team for 1993, Colin drove a Group A Legacy to victory at Rally New Zealand. It was his first win at WRC level, the first for Subaru’s fledgling team and one of McRae’s personal highlights from his WRC career. He won the event again in 1994 and 1995.
3: First home-round win
The Subaru Legacy was replaced by the Impreza 555, in which McRae scored his first home round win in the WRC at the final round of the 1994 season, the Network Q RAC Rally.
4: World Rally Champion
Fast forward 12 months and McRae was celebrating in Great Britain again. This time, he and co-driver Derek Ringer fought off Subaru teammate Carlos Sainz to win the rally and with it the 1995 WRC drivers’ title. At the age of 27 years and 109 days, McRae became the youngest title winner in WRC history, taking the honour from Juha Kankkunen who was 27 years and 249 days old when he won in 1986.
5: Safari master
In 1999, McRae moved to Ford where he would stay for four years and claim nine more WRC wins. His first for the blue oval came at Kenya’s Safari Rally, only his third event in the Focus RS. McRae won the Safari on three occasions, first with Subaru in 1997, and again with Ford in 2002.