Colin McRae's 10 best drives

Colin McRae's 10 best drives
By AutoSport

15/09/2017 at 14:32Updated

A decade ago today (September 15) Colin McRae died and the world lost arguably its most charismatic rally driver ever. Undoubtedly it lost one of the quickest and most committed.

From a rally career that spanned 22 of his 38 years, we look back and pick 10 of the biggest, best and most influential results of the 1995 World Rally Champion's time in the sport.

Many of the following stories have drawn heavily from a book I helped ace rally snapper Colin McMaster write. The title of the book was 'Just Colin'. All images accompanying the entries below are ©McKlein.

10 1985 Kames Stages Talbot Avenger (14th overall)

Where it all started. Just over a month after his 17th birthday, Colin McRae borrowed a Talbot Avenger on the promise of fitting a new gearbox to the car and went out and competed on his first rally.

He'd done just about everything else possible before legally driving on the road, winning junior scrambles and trials bike races before taking his first four-wheeled title: the 1985 West of Scotland Autotest Championship at the wheel of a 1275cc Mini.

But the 1985 Kames Stages was where the McRae rally story started.

9 1988 Tweedies Daihatsu Rally Nissan 240RS (1st overall)

The first win came with none other than the future Mrs McRae co-driving. For most, the 240RS is a brute of a thing with plenty of power but very little finesse. But to a 19-year-old Colin it was just another car to be driven. And drive it he did.

Alison McRae recalls: "I had a quick look at the car before the event and it looked like a beast. Then I had a look inside and saw the speedo went up to 200.

"I thought: 'Oh my God! This thing is a space rocket! We're going to be going 200mph in the forests!' I didn't say anything to Colin, but I was worried sick.

"Anyway, the next day I asked Colin if we would be going 200mph. He said: 'Alison, that's kilometres'.

"Oh right..."

8 1988 Scottish Rally Vauxhall Nova 1300cc (9th overall)

In his second season with the Nova, McRae's frustration was beginning to grow. He wanted to progress, but his father Jimmy wasn't having any of it. He would remain in the 1300cc Vauxhall until he was happy he had it on the limit everywhere.

McRae Jr certainly did that on the Scottish. He wrung the neck of the thing and placed it in a ridiculous ninth overall on his home round of the British Open Championship.

Jimmy was busy making history up front, winning the event for the first time in his career, but admitted his mind wasn't always on keeping his Group A Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in a straight line.

Jimmy said: "I'd be coming through some sections of the stages and thinking: 'Oh no, that's too rough for that wee Nova, I hope Colin takes it steady - that could kill it!'"

He didn't take it steady, he didn't kill it, but he did nail a stunning result.

7 1992 1000 Lakes Subaru Legacy RS (8th overall)

If ever there was a rally where Colin McRae announced himself on the world stage it was this one.

It probably wasn't precisely the way he'd hoped to do it, but after this event, nobody would a) forget or b) ever doubt the commitment of the young Scot.

In the middle of his second British campaign with Prodrive, McRae was told to go to Finland, keep the car in the middle of the road and learn one of the most difficult events in the championship. Colin rolled at shakedown and then rolled on a further three occasions.

The battered Legacy, which was inverted a total of 13 times during the event, was held together with tank tape, only occasionally featured a windscreen and certainly wasn't sporting a straight panel by the finish. But at that finish, the Finnish folk took McRae and co-driver Derek Ringer to heart.

Lancia driver Didier Auriol might well have won the rally, but he was firmly overshadowed by the Subaru crew seven places further back.

6 1999 Safari Rally Ford Focus WRC (1st overall)

In 1998 McRae told his co-driver Nicky Grist the time had come for a change. There was a big money offer from Ford and McRae appreciated the opportunity to shake off the tag of perpetual Subaru driver (the £3m per year basic came in handy too).

So, eight years after his last World Rally Championship start in a Ford, McRae was back behind the Blule Oval at the start of the 1999 season. The first two rounds were tricky with the all-new, revolutionary Focus and it was with some trepidation that Colin boarded the flight to Kenya for the Safari Rally.

He needn't have worried. Neither man nor machine missed a beat and the pairing scored its first win in Africa. Nobody predicted that result, but it worked a treat in showing the world that Colin had moved on from his years in blue and yellow.

5 1996 Acropolis Rally Subaru Impreza 555 (1st overall)

Nobody doubted McRae's speed and his times through stages like New Zealand's tortuously twisty Motu Road had pointed to patience as well as performance, but it was this win that really woke people up to the fact that McRae could drive a tactical rally as well.

McRae's co-driver Derek Ringer helped guide him to a controlled and utterly competent first win in Greece - but admitted there was some special speed involved early doors.

Ringer said: "Colin drove brilliantly on the first stage and we took 20 seconds out of everybody else.

"People seemed to sit back, scratching their heads wondering how we could do that, but Colin had decided to dominate Greece right from the start."

4 1993 Rally New Zealand Subaru Legacy RS (1st overall)

The breakthrough victory came on an event which McRae loved and would go on to absolutely dominate.

The quick, cambered, loose surface roads of New Zealand's North Island were tailor-made for a driver who loved to steer the car on the throttle and arrive at the apex with the front wheels pointing ever so slightly in the wrong direction.

Not even a lack of oil pressure or the close attention of Francois Delecour's Ford Escort Cosworth could rattle McRae. His time had come and he took it.

3 1994 RAC Rally Subaru Impreza 555 (1st overall)

He'd led the damned thing for the previous three years, but in 1994 nothing and nobody could stop Colin. Actually, that wasn't strictly true. McRae's team-mate Carlos Sainz was up for the championship against Didier Auriol's Toyota and, for much of the event, it looked like Colin would lose out on his first home win to benefit the Spaniard who needed maximum points to edge his French rival.

In the end, Sainz crashed out and Britain was safe to celebrate its first RAC winner since Roger Clark 18 years earlier in 1976.

2 1990 RAC Rally Ford Sierra RS Cosworth 4x4 (6th overall)

This was the event that changed everything. Up until this point McRae had shown massive pace and plenty of potential. But the bent metal had taken its toll.

Long-time backers Ford and Shell had emptied their collected wallets and beyond the 1990 RAC, there was absolutely nothing lined up for McRae. He needed a result on his home round of the championship.

A blown headgasket in Hamsterley wasn't the start he was after, but the RED team worked a miracle and changed the Sierra's head in half an hour. A spirited charge up the road section got them to Kielder almost on time. When Ringer checked in, the marshal informed him they were OTL (over time limit) and effectively out of the rally.

"I managed to talk the marshals into giving us the 'correct' time," smiles Ringer.

In the depths of Kielder, the Scotsmen coped with alternator failure, broken driveshafts and the incessant rain. Now looking to pre-empt failures, the team elected to make a precautionary gearbox change at the overnight halt, only for the new 'box to fail first thing the next morning.

By now Ringer's door had started flapping open, a legacy of bouncing off a stone gate in Chatsworth on the opening day.

"The team welded my door shut," said Ringer, "but the scrutineers took one look at that and said 'No way!'

"The door was opened again and the team had a quick look around for something to keep it shut - the only thing they could find was the bolt off a farmer's gate. We borrowed that, bolted my door shut and carried on."

Coming through the Scottish Borders, things really looked up and McRae set four fatsest times as he closed on the finish. Despite the dramas, McRae was sixth overall and ahead of Ford's factory cars.

Ringer put the result into perspective: "Instead of just being Jim McRae's son, Colin suddenly stood out as a real talent."

A few weeks later David Richards telephoned Lanark. He'd had an idea...

1 1995 RAC Rally Subaru Impreza 555 (1st overall)

Twelve months earlier in a moment of seriousness among wild celebrations in Chester, McRae informed an adoring crowd that he wanted to be back a year later and he wanted to be fighting for the title.

He did more than that. He won the fight. He won the title. And he did it in the best possible fashion. He floored superstar Spaniard Sainz with a devastating and genuinely unbeatable run through his home round of the championship.

This was McRae's rally and nobody was going to stop him taking it. He had a puncture in Pundershaw, but stopped at a junction where the spectators just happened to have a trolley jack ready and waiting.

And when he broke the front-right suspension in Newcastleton, he did it near the finish and was able to botch a fix just good enough to get them down the M6 to service in Penrith.

Then Subaru mechanic Alan McGuiness remembers a particularly calm McRae, saying: "Every service on that RAC was stressful. The only one who wasn't on edge was Colin. He was supremely confident in his own ability and this really helped settle everyone down.

"Even when he ripped a wheel off and arrived in service on three wheels, Colin just said: 'Ah, she'll be right. No problem'."

He was right.

Arriving at the end of the final stage was a fine moment for massed ranks outside the Subaru, but on the inside it was even more special.

"It was a great feeling to cross the line and win the championship," said Ringer, "but, to be totally honest, I don't think Colin or I understood what it meant. His whole world was about to change."

0
0