One of the iconic characters in motorsport, Colin McRae will without end be remembered as a real Ford hero. Right here’s why…
Function first appeared in Quick Ford journal. Phrases: Graham Robson. Pictures: Ford Photographic
It’s been 22 years since Colin McRae gained his first rally occasion in a Focus WRC, the Safari of 1999. It might have been of shattering significance to Ford, and to M-Sport, which had constructed the automobile, however for Colin it was simply one other step alongside the way in which – he had, in spite of everything, gained his first world championship spherical six years earlier, and had been world rally champion in 1995.
As a character, an icon, and, above all as a fiercely aggressive driver, we’ll always remember him. Colin, who tragically died in a helicopter crash close to his house in Scotland in 2007 (alongside together with his son Johnny and two household buddies) had no time to do something slowly. Every little thing in his life appeared to be loved at prime pace, and his profession actually mirrored that. Possibly his top-line rally profession was already over by the yr through which he was taken from us, however so far as he was involved there was nonetheless far more motorsport to be loved.
Earlier than he took up rallying, Colin had indulged in bike trials and scrambles, but it surely was after watching his well-known father, Jimmy McRae, win so properly, so typically and so stylishly in a rally automobile that he took up the game. He by no means let his rallying life be boring, and his sport was by no means tackled cautiously.
Alongside the way in which, he notched up a powerful whole of payments to restore crashed vehicles and appeared to not care how a lot this was typically costing his employers. It was a maybe barely boastful perspective, which finally weighed in opposition to him.
The primary time I noticed Colin McRae on a British rally within the Nineteen Eighties, he was choosing tree branches out of the bodywork of his battered Vauxhall Nova. The second time, he was doing the identical to a Sierra RS Cosworth, and the third… Properly, why do you assume that his long-standing nickname was McCrash? His one-time crew boss David Sutton described Ari Vatanen’s progress as ‘crash, win, break the automobile, crash, win…’ and Colin was like that in each means. And identical to the flying Finn, Colin matured and have become a hero to tens of millions of rally followers all around the world.
“With McRae’s ‘if unsure, flat out’ perspective, there’s no surprise he’s considered one of many most-loved Ford motorsport icons of all time”
Colin was the eldest son of five-times British Rally Championship winner Jimmy McRae, who together with Russell Brookes, had dominated British rallying occasions throughout the Nineteen Eighties. It was when Jimmy was at his peak, driving works-blessed Ford Sierra RS Cosworths, that in 1986 Colin (then solely aged 18) began out within the Scottish Rally Championship in a Talbot Sunbeam, quickly turning to a Vauxhall Nova (with monetary assist from Vendor Workforce Vauxhall).
Ford, which had Jimmy McRae on a long-term contract, then determined to encourage Colin too. The Blue Oval supplied him with a Group N Sierra RS Cosworth for the British Rally Championship (the place he typically crashed) however at this early stage his most astonishing efficiency was to take fifth total in New Zealand in D933 UOO, an aged ex-works Group A Sierra RS Cosworth RWD (on an occasion the place four-wheel-drive vehicles have been already thought of important).
Ford, nonetheless indulging him despite his frequent pricey crashes, then gave Colin full backing in 1990, the place he began the yr in a rear-drive Group A Sapphire Cosworth, and ended it in one of many first Cosworth 4x4s. Though he took second place total within the British Rally Championship of that yr (a seven-event collection through which he had one victory, two seconds and two third locations), his first Ford works contract got here to an finish instantly after he had badly broken one more works Sapphire Cosworth 4×4 within the RAC rally.
Regardless of taking sixth place on the finish of that occasion, his automobile was actually a rolling write-off following a typical McCrash tour and Boreham appeared relaxed when listening to that he had determined to affix to Subaru (and Prodrive), the place he would keep till 1998.
To be trustworthy, it was at Subaru that Colin firmly cemented his relationship with the British rallying public. Not solely did he win the British Championship twice within the four-wheel-drive Legacy, he started successful at world degree, utilizing steadily-improving Imprezas.
Not that his manner, nor his therapy of his vehicles, improved in that interval, for though he turned world rally champion in 1995 and completed second within the championship in 1996 and 1997, he was typically at odds together with his crew administration, together with his teammates, and even within the automobile itself; he additionally dumped co-driver Derek Ringer in favour of Nicky Grist in 1997.
By that point he had turn out to be one thing of a media hero, as his Colin McRae pc recreation offered in its tens of millions, making him richer than any earlier British driver. His calls for on the crew and, coincidentally, his monetary calls for on Prodrive, finally led to them releasing him on the finish of 1998.
By then, although, he had already concluded a mega-contract with M-Sport and Ford for 1999; he was made crew chief at a then-colossal price of seemingly £3 million-a-year. You could make certain that Martini, which was the headline sponsor of the newly-developed Focus WRC vehicles, needed to spend a lot of the finances on McRae.
Irrespective of, the monetary outlay was quickly seen to be price it; grappling with the all-new Focus WRC, he startled everybody by successful the 1999 Safari and Portugal occasions in his first few months. They have been solely the third and fourth rallies ever tackled by that complicated four-wheel-drive automobile.
Nonetheless, Colin McRae at all times appeared to be very laborious on his vehicles: he anticipated them to place up together with his strategies, and anticipated the crew to place up together with his typically sullen temperament. When issues have been going properly, he may seemingly be one of the best of hosts and the soul of any occasion. However when the gloom descended (which it typically did) he was stated to be higher averted.
Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport organisation, which liked him due to his unstoppable ambition to win and talent to maintain a battered automobile going, rose above McRae’s perspective, because the automobile stored on bettering. Colin was at all times on the tempo except the Focus WRC let him down. Sadly it did that extra typically then he or M-Sport would have favored in 1999, with 11 retirements in that first yr; three have been because of crashes, however at any time when and wherever he appeared within the Focus, Colin McRae set requirements and, often, quickest occasions.
His second season with the M-Sport Focus (in 2000) was so typical of his flamboyant profession at Ford. Having began all 14 world championship rounds, Colin gained twice (Spain and Greece), and took second on three events. However his vehicles suffered 4 engine failures and had two massive accidents. He was apparently so sad about this that he threatened to depart on the finish of the yr.
“He had turn out to be a media hero, as his pc recreation offered in its tens of millions, making him richer than any earlier British driver”
Issues acquired significantly better in 2001 when McRae gained three world occasions, all three on the run: Argentina, Cyprus and Greece. And amazingly, there was just one accident – in entrance of his adoring followers within the Community Q Rally on the finish of the season.
Even so, Colin at all times appeared to provide every thing to his sport and his employers. In actual fact, he got here near demise after a high-speed crash in Corsica in 2002, which left the automobile the other way up within the timber and beneath the extent of the street, with him trapped inside and gasoline dripping onto his overalls. It was a miracle that co-driver Nicky Grist was in a position to get out of the wreck and summon assist.
McRae was at all times the darling of the nationwide and motorsport press (like Nigel Mansell, they didn’t essentially like him as a person, however he actually supplied them with many good headlines). It was particularly an excellent factor for his private publicity, particularly because the media inspired the parable of his rivalry with Richard Burns (actually, the 2 have been buddies and thought the thought of a feud was laughable). With a complete of 25 world victories and plenty of different podium placings, it’s straightforward to see why.
Bargaining on his price to the game, Colin quickly turned rallying’s richest driver, and since greater than ten million copies of the PlayStation Colin McRae Rally video video games have been offered, he properly turned a tax exile in Monaco for some years.
Nonetheless, it was his monetary calls for (he seemingly demanded £5 million for the next yr) that finally compelled McRae out of Ford on the finish of 2002, and he was by no means glad, nor profitable, with Citroen the next yr.
When he misplaced his Citroen contract after just one season, there have been no different substantial rally affords, and due to his identified character he discovered it inconceivable to realize any additional works drives.
Aside from dabbling with the design of a brand new clubman’s rally automobile – the McRae R4 – which he personally demonstrated on the Goodwood Pageant of Pace in 2006, a one-off drive within the Le Mans 24-hour race, and the commissioning of an final Mk2 Escort ‘only for enjoyable’, his motorsport profession was successfully over.
However his legacy will reside on without end. Rally followers aren’t as pragmatic as crew bosses; they don’t care about coming second in a pristine automobile able to do battle once more subsequent week. No, they wish to see a do-or-die perspective, going all-out for glory and to heck with the results. And with Colin McRae’s ‘if unsure, flat out’ perspective, that’s precisely what they acquired. No surprise he’s considered one of many most-loved Ford motorsport icons of all time.
Colin McRae: Driver Profile
Lanark, on 5 August 1968. Killed in a helicopter crash on 15 August 2007.
World Rally Champion in 1995, second in World Rally Championship in 1996, 1997 and 2001. British Rally Champion in 1991 and 1992.
Raced works Ford Focus WRCs from 1999 to 2002, successful 9 world occasions (together with twice within the East African Safari, and three straight victories within the Greek Acropolis) throughout that point.
Outright World Rally victories:
1993 – New Zealand (Subaru Legacy), 1994 – New Zealand, Australia and Nice Britain (Subaru Impreza); 1995 – New Zealand and Nice Britain (Subaru Impreza); 1996 – Greece, Italy and Spain (Subaru Impreza); 1997 – East African Safari, Tour de Corse, Italy, Australia and Nice Britain (Subaru Impreza); 1998, Portugal, Tour de Corse and Greece (Subaru Impreza); 1999 – East African Safari and Portugal (Ford Focus WRC); 2000 – Spain and Greece (Ford Focus WRC); 2001 – Argentina, Cyprus and Greece (Ford Focus WRC); 2002 – Greece and East African Safari (Focus WRC)