Dubai: The FIA World Rally Championship is celebrating 25 years of Colin McRae’s triumph as the youngest-ever world rally champion.
The Scotsman, who died in a helicopter crash with his son Johnny near his home in 2007 when only 39, became the youngest to win the World Rally Championship Drivers’ title in 1995 – a record he still holds – when he was just 27 years and 109 days old.
Exactly 25 years ago, next Sunday (November 22), McRae climbed out of his iconic blue Subaru Impreza to wild adoration as he became the youngest-ever world rally champion as massive crowds celebrated at Chester Racecourse with him, co-driver Derek Ringer and their Prodrive team following their win at Britain’s RAC Rally.
Life was never the same for the Scot, whose face was splashed across TV news bulletins and the front pages of national newspapers. He went on to become one of the most popular drivers the sport has known.
McRae’s achievement is now being celebrated in a new 30-minute WRC TV documentary called ‘Colin McRae: 25 Years A Champion’, in which his father and five-time British champion Jimmy and Prodrive boss David Richards relive fond memories of their 1995 success.
McRae’s daughter, Hollie, who was not born when he won the title, speaks publicly for the first time about the man who was simply ‘dad’. McRae carved a reputation as one of the WRC’s fastest and bravest drivers.
Subaru teammates McRae and Carlos Sainz started the RAC Rally tied at the top of the championship after controversial team orders forced McRae to gift victory to the Spaniard at the penultimate round in Spain. Rally fever gripped the nation as more than two million fans turned out to roar on their hero at the finale in Britain’s muddy forests.
McRae led but slipped behind Sainz after a puncture. Incredibly, he fought back to demote his colleague to claim a 36 seconds victory and secure the title by five points.
“I can always remember the finish and the doughnuts,” McRae senior recalled in the feature video.
“The crowds that were there, it was unbelievable. I think most of Lanark [the family’s home town] turned up there, pretty sure he was going to win it. One of the things Colin said, I can’t remember if it was at the end of the last stage or back in Chester, he just said: ‘World champion, the world’s a big place, isn’t it?’ I always remember that,” he said.
In the programme, McRae senior drives the famous Impreza at Kames race circuit, where his then teenage son made his debut 10 years before his title glory. The youngster drove an untaxed Hillman Avenger bearing false number plates, while his oblivious parents were on holiday.
His daughter Hollie recalls childhood adventures on bikes, quads and any machinery with four wheels and an engine. “For the first eight years of my life, I didn’t really know Colin McRae the world champion driver, I just knew him as dad and that’s all he was,” she said.
“Occasionally, he would go and do some pretty ‘out there’ things, but to me he was just dad. He would go off and do some pretty cool things and come back with some great stories, but when he was around the house he was just like anybody else’s dad. He was loving, he was caring, that’s what still sticks with me,” she recalledd.