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Colin McRae OBE 1968 - 2007

A Hugely Talented Rally Driver
Who Captivated The World of Rallying

The world of International rallying has witnessed many brave and dedicated drivers over the years and surely one of the most spectacular to watch was Colin McRae. Anybody who has experienced his skills at close hand will bear witness to his absolute commitment when behind the wheel. His untimely and tragic death at the age of 39 has robbed the world of motor sport and the country as a whole of an outstanding sportsman.

Colin was born with engine oil in his blood, his father Jimmy was already a well established and successful rally driver who went on to win five British Rally Championship titles. So it was inevitable that Colin would take an early interest in motor sport. Initially however, it was with two wheels that Colin first tasted success on Trials Bikes which he rode from the age of seven, winning both junior and intermediate championships by the time he was fourteen.

But it was on four wheels that Colin truly found his vocation taking part in his first rally in Scotland in 1985. Just a year later he drove in his first WRC event in Sweden finishing 36th overall and third in class. I remember seeing a young Colin for the first time during the 1988 Lombard RAC Rally driving the Group A Peugeot 205 GTI partnered by his long time Co Driver Derek Ringer, an event from which Colin would suffer many retirements over the years.

Colin McRae

Over the next ten years, Colin honed his skills and became known for his totally uncompromising driving style. With that style came the inevitable spills and Colin developed a reputation for losing rallies when he could have won if only he’d backed off the loud pedal a bit more often. Colin won the British Rally Championship in 1991 and 1992 driving the Subaru Legacy RS and was rapidly earning the respect of both fellow drivers and adoring fans alike. Despite some criticism from certain corners of the WRC world, there was absolutely no doubt that Colin possessed a bravery and natural ability that placed him firmly at the top of his profession alongside Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist and Carlos Sainz. Indeed it was against stiff competition from Sainz, who partnered Colin in the Subaru WRCs, that Colin took the 1995 WRC crown becoming the youngest World Rally Champion and the first British title holder.

Colin also won his home event, the Network Q Rally of Great Britain in 1994 and 1995 driving the 555 Subaru Impreza and again in 1997 behind the wheel of the Subaru WRC. It was during this time that Colin helped Subaru to achieve three World Rally Championship Manufacturer titles working closely with Prodrive’s Dave Richards.

Despite the hugely successful collaboration of Colin, Derek, Dave Richards and the almost indestructible Subaru, Colin left to join Ford for 1999 season driving the new Ford Focus WRC. The omens weren’t great for the season with Colin and new Co-driver Nicky Grist disqualified for technical infringement from the first round in Monte Carlo despite finishing third overall. Colin went on to help Ford establish the Focus WRC as a seious competitor with a number of notable victories over the next few years.

The 2003 season saw Colin reunited with former Co-Driver Derek Ringer behind the wheel of the Citroen Xsara WRC. The outright wins may have eluded him that year, but consistent high points finishes helped Citroen to the Manufacturers' title.

The last four years saw Colin drive on a one off basis in various rallies including the Paris – Dakar as well as experiencing some track action in the Le Mans 24 hrs driving a Ferrari in the GT1 class.

He was also working on development of his own class of Rally Car and continued to lend his name to a range of driver simulation games for computer gamers.

But it was behind the wheel of a barking, aggressive, mud strewn rally car that Colin displayed his true abilities. I last met Colin at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed where he was once again behind the wheel of a Subaru. He did the most spectacular of donuts, attracted huge crowds of devoted and loyal fans, and had that familiar grin on his face. He was loving it and so were we.

Colin McRae talks to UKMT's Will Chambers

It seems cruelly ironic that Colin should have survived many a spectacular high speed crash to have lost his life along with that of three others including his son Johnny (aged five) in a helicopter crash within the grounds of his own home.

We will greatly miss his talent and charisma.

He leaves loving wife Alison and daughter Hollie.

Will Chambers – First Take Media

 


Colin McRae:

  • Born Lanark, Scotland  5th August 1968.
  • Rally Debut 1986.
  • British Rally Champion 1991 & 1992
  • FIA World Rally Champion 1995
  • Married to Alison
  • Two children Johnny (5) died 15th September 2007, Hollie (9)
  • Died: Lanark, Scotland 15th September 2007

Colin McRae at the launch of the Goodwood motor sport events

 Hear Will Chambers catching Colin shortly before going out on the Goodwood Rally Stage

 Hear Graham Benge's chat with Colin at the launch of the 2007 Goodwood events

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