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Farewell To A Rally Legend
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Old 16 Sep 2007, 09:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Farewell To A Rally Legend

Farewell to Colin McRae, a Scottish world champion
STUART BATHGATE CHIEF SPORTS WRITER (sbathgate@scotsman.com)

COLIN McRae's death in a helicopter crash has robbed Scotland not only of one of its few sporting world champions, but also of a man whose adventurous spirit was an inspiration well beyond the traditional boundaries of motorsport.

Far more interested in ploughing on to the next challenge rather than dwelling on what he had already done, McRae did not court publicity, and the World Rally Championship (WRC), which he won in 1995, receives little media attention in Britain compared to Formula 1. For both those reasons, the magnitude of his achievement was, if anything, underestimated in his own country, only being fully appreciated elsewhere.

The elder son of the five-time British Rally Championship winner Jimmy McRae, Colin learned from his father's experiences. Married to his own innate ability, this body of knowledge helped him reach new heights in his chosen profession.

"He was really daring, always pushing it further," the Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalainen recalled. "I always liked his attitude.

"It was maximum attack always and he had some big rolls sometimes. Every time he had one, though, it was like: 'Oh well, it's just a roll,' and he just carried on."

David Richards, who owned the Prodrive Subaru team for which McRae raced when he became world champion, also remembered a man who put everything into his racing - and who was never deterred by mishaps. "There was never a minute when he didn't try 100 per cent and, of course, we had lots of accidents," Richards said.

"And it is with great irony that, with all the accidents he had in rally cars that he walked away from unscathed, this happens in a helicopter. He had a competitive spirit like I've never seen in any other individual in my life."

That spirit was evident from a very early age, and he was competing on motorbikes by the age of seven. After school he ensured he could help carry on the other McRae family business by training as a plumber, but by the time he qualified it was all but inevitable that he would make a more lucrative living on the road. "I didn't set goals as I went along," he recalled earlier this year. "I just wanted to be quick as possible and win as much as possible."

Born in 1968, he was still a teenager when he began his rallying career. That was in 1986, and a year later he began his long association with the World Rally Championship - an association that would go on for nearly two full decades.

It was after becoming the British rally champion in 1991, then successfully defending his title the following year, that McRae's career began to hit the big time. He won his first WRC rally - the Rally New Zealand - in a Subaru Legacy in 1993.

By then his Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz had two world titles under his belt, and in 1995 had high hopes of winning a third. But, in the final round, the British Rally, the Scot got the better of the Spaniard to take the title.

The friendship-cum-rivalry he enjoyed with Sainz was not the only one in McRae's career. Richard Burns, the 2001 world champion who died of a brain tumour two years ago at the age of 34, was another who spurred him on to try ever harder. Besides the example of his own father and the competition from his brother Alister, McRae must also have found inspiration in the Scottish motor-racing tradition - in legends such as Jim Clark, and in contemporaries like the motorcyclist Steve Hislop.

Hislop, who came from the vilage of Chesters near Hawick, was seven years older than McRae, but at his peak around the same time. He won the British Superbike Championship in 1995, the year the younger man took the WRC title. Hislop also died in a helicopter accident, in 2003.

After winning that title in 1995, McRae was runner-up the following two years, third in 1998, then second again in 2001. He competed in 146 world rallies in all, winning 25 and taking 42 podium places. He was appointed MBE in the same year as he first ended as WRC runner-up.

Besides his early impact on the British rally scene and his sustained stay towards the top of the WRC rankings, McRae's love of motorsport came out in a variety of other events. He competed in the Le Mans 24-hour race, drove a Nissan truck in the Paris-Dakar Rally, then returned to the Subaru stable when he entered the first televised American rally as part of the X Games, the multi-sport event based in Los Angeles.

In the 2006 event, he flipped his Subaru and tore a wheel off the car. Typically, he still managed to finish second.

The X Games were perhaps a new departure for McRae, but his name was by then familiar to many of the American teenagers who tuned in to watch the event on TV. For, at the same time as he had kept going with his rallying career, McRae also developed a sideline which would see his name become familiar to a new generation - the "Colin McRae Rally" computer game which first became available in 1998.

The popularity of this game soon reached far beyond the normal confines of rallying, and indeed of motor sport. As a consequence McRae rose to become one of the country's highest-earning sportsmen.

"It was something that I didn't really know anything about when I got involved in it, back in the early '90s," he told the magazine Autosport.

"It's been great, it's been very successful - and probably one of the single things that increased my popularity and notoriety more than anything."

Notoriety was the wrong word, for McRae was notorious to no-one, apart perhaps from a few who found his driving style simply too adventurous. Popular was a more accurate term by far, but popular in an understated way, because he remained a modest, matter-of-fact man who, for all his wealth, kept firmly in touch with everyday life.

Colin McRae had a drive for perfection, a restlessness which would not allow him to settle for second best. Those qualities provided an example worthy of emulation not only in rallying, not only in sport, but in every walk of life.
'A sad loss for Scotland of a real hero and an immensely popular friend'

AFTER the death of Colin McRae was confirmed yesterday, tributes poured in from the world of motorsport and beyond .

"Helen [ my wife] and I are very sad to hear the tragic news. Both Paul and Mark [ my sons] were good friends with Colin also. We want to extend our sincere condolences and deepest sympathy to Ali, Jimmy and the rest of the McRae fa m i ly. Its a sad loss for Scotland of a real hero and an immensely popular friend." SIR JACKIE STEWART, Three- time F1 world champion

"He and [ his wife] Alison were good friends and I cannot imagine either without the other. He was fearless, flamboyant, blindingly quick in the car. He was very down- to- earth, matter- of-fact that he was so good. He had all the good Scottish traits." DAVID COULTHARD, Formula 1 driver

"We used to drive to the max and push everything to the absolute limit. But when it came to socialising we had great fun also." NICKY GRIST McRaes former co- driver

"Colin McRae was an outstanding Scottish sportsman of international stature and achievement. His death is a great tragedy, and my thoughts and condolences are with all the families and friends bereaved by this terrible accident." ALEX SALMOND First Minister

"I dont think anybody disliked him, everyone was his friend in the sport. Everywhere he went he was an ambassador, an ambassador for the sport and for Scotland, he was terrific." MAX MOSLEY President of the FIA

"He had a competitive spirit like Ive never seen in any other individual in my life. I remember when I put him in a Formula One car at Silverstone and how great he was in that straight away. It could have been a sports car, touring car, Paris- Dakar, you name it. Its unusual to call somebody a legend, but its very appropriate for Colin." DAVE RICHARDS Owner of Prodrive team with whom McRae won the world championship

"He was really daring, always pushing it further. I always liked his attitude. It was maximum attack always and he had some big rolls sometimes. Every time he had one, though, it was like: Oh well, its just a roll, and he just carried on." HEIKKI KOVALAINEN Formula 1 driver

"Colin was an inspiration to all who knew him and to millions around the world who knew of him. His energy, commitment and extraordinary talent brought him domestic and international success, while his uncompromising style and determination made him the hero of fans everywhere. Throughout a glorious career, that saw him rise from the grassroots of the sport to the pinnacle of the world stage, Colin was always a great ambassador for Scottish and UK motor sport." COLIN HILTON Chief Executive of the Motor Sports Association

"He was something special. He started in 1988 and was world champion seven years later. That shows just what a driver he was. He was a great friend and I had no fear of flying with him and Ive been at the controls of the helicopter. I felt 100 per cent safe with him and I never had any fears." MURRAY GRIERSON Former Scottish rally champion

"I need to remember Colin McRae. I dedicate to him this victory because he is one of my idols." VALENTINO ROSSI MotoGP rider

"Cruelly taken from us in such a heartbreaking way. May you enjoy going flat out on Gods special stage." Message left on St Andrews flag outside Subaru Impreza Drivers Club

-------------------


Damn R.I.P. Colin, thats so sad he kicked ass.
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Old 22 Sep 2007, 12:18 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Holy shit, I didn't even know this happened. Dude was badass. I was actually looking forward to watching him race that motocross guy for a while.
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