Your 10 greatest motorsport moments

At the end of last year, Autosport International asked fans to select their favourite motorsport moments from a list chosen by a panel that included three-time Formula 1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart. Here are the results

Your 10 greatest motorsport moments

They are a little surprising, with three different categories represented in the top three, perhaps underlining the fact that the show in Birmingham is not F1-focused. While all these moments are undoubtedly memorable, the order is not what we expected and the impact of Hollywood’s Le Mans ’66 is apparent. It would be interesting to see how the list might change if the exercise was repeated in 10 years’ time…

Below we’ll look back at the selection in reverse order, with input and recollections from some of those involved, but that won’t be the end of the matter.

There will be a Motorsport Memories gallery at Autosport International, held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre on 12-15 January 2023. The 10 prints, supplied by Motorsport Images, will be signed by Stewart and raffled, along with many other motorsport items, to raise funds and awareness for Race Against Dementia’s research. You can text MEMORY to 70215 to enter the free prize draw.

It was the grand prix Fangio named as the race of his life

It was the grand prix Fangio named as the race of his life

Photo by: Motorsport Images

10. 1957 German GP: The greatest drive of a legend, Kevin Turner

“I had to risk – that’s something I never did before in my life.” Such was the dangerous nature of the sport in the 1950s and the enormity of his ability that Juan Manuel Fangio rarely extended himself for long periods. But he did on the fearsome 14.2-mile Nurburgring in 1957, during the German GP he picked as the race of his life for Autosport in 1989.

Race of my life: Juan Manuel Fangio on the 1957 German GP

It’s a race often cited as one of the greatest of all time, a battling recovery drive by a legend in the iconic Maserati 250F on the finest circuit in the world.

Fangio had beaten Mike Hawthorn’s Ferrari to pole and soon retook the lead after losing out at the start. He knew he had to make a planned pitstop to change his Pirelli tyres and had started on half-tanks. Famously, Fangio’s pitstop at half-distance did not go as well as hoped (or as it had in practice), and he resumed nearly a minute behind the Ferraris of Britons Hawthorn and Peter Collins, who were running non-stop.

Initially, Fangio did not charge after them, only adding to the feeling that the race was lost, but then he turned the screw.

The lap record was smashed repeatedly as Fangio sliced into the deficit.

“I started to switch from using fourth gear to fifth,” said the Argentinian in 1989. “I started to pull stronger using the longer gears. And I thought, ‘Maybe once is OK, I can take one turn like this – but it’s crazy if I take two…’

“I made the right decision. If in one turn I was using second gear, then I went into third. When it was third, I used fourth gear. And the car went better into the turns. Then there is much more risk, this is much less safe, but you go faster.”

Ferrari eventually responded and hung out the ‘FLAT’ boards to Hawthorn and Collins but it was too little, too late. Fangio swept into the lead on the penultimate lap and, despite Hawthorn gamely hanging on, won the 22-lap, three-and-a-half-hour race by 3.6 seconds.

Not only had Fangio broken his own lap record by 24.2s, but his fastest lap of 9m17.4s was 8.2s faster than his pole time.

“I’ve never been a spectacular racer, but I did things I had never done in my life, driving from one side of the circuit to the other, using the maximum revs,” he added. “I was at the peak of my form. It was the best year of my career.”

The win, his 24th and final world championship grand prix victory, also secured Fangio’s fifth F1 crown.

Stewart secures his first F1 world crown in a stunning Italian GP

Stewart secures his first F1 world crown in a stunning Italian GP

Photo by: Sutton Images

9. 1969 Italian GP: Stewart claims crown in super slipstreamer, Kevin Turner

The 1971 Italian GP often grabs the limelight because Peter Gethin’s winning speed was a record that stood for three decades and just 0.61 seconds covered the top five. But the epic slipstreamer at pre-chicane Monza two years before also deserves to be remembered and is the one that makes it onto this list.

Jackie Stewart’s Ken Tyrrell-run Matra and Lotus star Jochen Rindt had been the pacesetters of the 1969 Formula 1 season, but Rindt’s poor luck meant there wasn’t a title fight. When they arrived in Italy for round eight of 11, Stewart led Jacky Ickx by 29 points (when nine was awarded for victory), while Rindt was still waiting for his first win and had just three points on the board. Fortunately, both Stewart and Rindt were to be key players throughout the 68-lapper.

Rindt took his fourth pole of the year, while third-placed Stewart focused on race set-up.

“Ken Tyrrell never thought pole was important and we spent the whole time trying to stop having to change gear before you got to the line,” Stewart told Autosport in 2017 about his selection of a longer fourth-gear ratio.

The Scot burst through from row two to lead at the start. Unlike in previous rounds, however, it wasn’t just Rindt who hung onto the wingless Matra as the slipstreaming began. As well as Stewart and Rindt, Denny Hulme’s McLaren and Piers Courage (Frank Williams-run Brabham) also led at various points. Officially there were 14 lead changes, but there were many more as the leaders passed and repassed each other around the lap.

Both Hulme and Courage hit trouble, as did Graham Hill’s Lotus, but there were still four cars jostling for the lead going into the closing stages: Stewart and his team-mate Jean-Pierre Beltoise (his Matra bewinged), Rindt, and the McLaren M7C of team founder Bruce McLaren.

Rindt was ahead coming out of the fast Lesmo left-hander on the final lap. Stewart pulled out and slipstreamed past on the run to Parabolica, only for Beltoise to dive down the inside as they entered the final right-hander. The Matras exited side by side, with Stewart pulling ahead and Rindt tucked up behind. The Lotus pulled alongside in the final yards but fell 0.08s short. Just 0.19s covered Stewart, Rindt, Beltoise and McLaren, with the winning speed being 147mph.

“Nobody has ever seen the finish of a motor race like that,” said legendary commentator Murray Walker. Despite all the slipstreaming and place changing, the ‘laps led’ statistic reveals the advantage Stewart’s long fourth gear had given him. He had crossed the start/finish line in the lead 58 times out of 68. It was his sixth win of the year, scored against his strongest rival, and fittingly secured Stewart his first world crown.

The clash between Soper and Cleland remains one of the most iconic BTCC moments

The clash between Soper and Cleland remains one of the most iconic BTCC moments

Photo by: Motorsport Images

8. 1992 Silverstone BTCC finale: Harvey’s tin-top title as Cleland and Soper clash, Kevin Turner

“Winning the British Touring Car Championship defines my career, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. It was soured a bit by the controversy with John and Steve, but if the clash hadn’t happened we wouldn’t be talking about it.”

Tim Harvey probably has a point when it comes to his remarkable 1992 BTCC title success at the Silverstone finale. The Vic Lee BMW driver finished fourth to take the crown by three points, but it was the controversy between his team-mate Steve Soper and Vauxhall’s John Cleland that makes the event so memorable – and got it onto Autosport magazine’s cover.

Retrospective: How a great battle kickstarted touring cars' best era

The two-litre era that became known as Super Touring is widely regarded as the peak of touring car competition, so it’s fitting that the 1990s provides the tin-top representative in your favourite memories. Cleland had started the season well with two wins and held the lead as BMW’s new-shape E36 – made available for the BTCC before it even competed in Germany – hit form. Harvey won five races in a row prior to Silverstone to move within three points, while Toyota’s Will Hoy was only one point further back.

The three title contenders suffered in inclement weather during qualifying and all started outside the top six, with Soper fourth. While Hoy soon jumped to fourth behind team-mate Andy Rouse and the Vauxhalls of Jeff Allam and David Leslie, Soper had to start a recovery drive. He had clashed with a robust Leslie at Club, then been hit by Robb Gravett’s Peugeot. The BMW looked worse for wear but was still mobile – and fast as it scorched through the pack.

Harvey and Cleland swapped places a couple of times before the BMW shoulder-barged Hoy aside at Copse on the penultimate lap. The move allowed Cleland to pass both into fourth – and the flying Soper into fifth. Cleland, nursing injuries from an enormous Donington Park crash the month before, still looked set to be champion. But then Soper dived past Cleland into Vale/Club, triggering a Cleland hand gesture and the famous “I’m going for first” line from Murray Walker. Harvey overtook Cleland into Bridge, then Soper allowed him into fourth, enough to make Harvey champion.

In response, Cleland boldly dived down the inside into Brooklands, the Vauxhall up on two wheels before forcing the BMW wide. Soper retaliated at the following Luffield right-hander, hitting the Vauxhall in the side. Both retired in the gravel. Cleland’s “the man’s an animal” line demonstrated his frustration as Harvey completed his final lap to snatch the title.

The incident made headlines, increased the profile of the series and could have resulted in a ban for Soper or Cleland, had the two not agreed to call it a racing incident in the subsequent RAC tribunal. High drama even by traditional touring car standards!

It was heartbreak for Toyota at Le Mans in 2016

It was heartbreak for Toyota at Le Mans in 2016

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

7. 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours: Toyota’s endurance ‘curse’ reaches its zenith, Gary Watkins

I’ve rarely felt the need or desire to embrace drivers in their success or failure. But it seemed the right thing to do after the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours. I couldn’t deny Anthony Davidson and Sebastien Buemi when they stretched out their arms. I felt gutted for them, and, of course, Kazuki Nakajima, who was at the wheel of the leading Toyota TS050 HYBRID when a faltering engine ripped victory from the Japanese manufacturer’s grasp in the dying minutes of a fine contest.

The sight of Nakajima at reduced speed on the Mulsanne Straight on his penultimate lap yelling “I have no power! I have no power!” was like a punch in the guts. I know I should be an unbiased observer, but who didn’t want Toyota to complete what would have been a deserved victory after so many years of heartbreak? Probably only the most ardent Porsche fan.

Toyota’s new TS050, powered by a twin-turbo V6 rather than the normally aspirated V8 of its predecessor, had come out on top in a battle with the Porsche 919 Hybrid that was nip and tuck for much of the way. Perhaps that was the shame of Le Mans 2016: it would have been remembered as a classic even without that final, devastating twist for Toyota, denied once again.

Only in the closing stages did Toyota really begin to get a grip on the race. The Porsche had been the faster car in the night but, as the temperatures rose on Sunday morning, the TS050 at the very least came onto a par with the 919. The 14-lap stints the low-drag Toyota could achieve compared with the Porsche’s 13 laps ended up proving decisive. Or should have done.

Nakajima held a lead of one minute when the power from the new 2.4-litre V6 began to go west through sector one with six or so minutes left on the clock. That advantage was all but gone when he crossed the line to start the final lap. Neel Jani in the Porsche swept past as the Toyota pulled up in front of its pits for its driver to go through a recycle procedure.

The Toyota got going again and crossed the line in second position, but its final lap had been outside the six-minute maximum laid down in the rules. The car would be unclassified. I wrote at the time that this was the final ignominy for Toyota. I was wrong.

The reduction in power was traced to a fractured airline between one of the turbos and its intercooler. A year later, the same problem wouldn’t have caused such a dramatic loss. The hasty development of the V6, which was set in motion almost exactly one year before, meant the systems were not yet in place to compensate for the failure.

So hugs all round were fully deserved. Reckon I still owe Kaz a commiseratory embrace all these years on.

Mansell hunted down Piquet with the British crowd roaring him on

Mansell hunted down Piquet with the British crowd roaring him on

Photo by: Motorsport Images

6. 1987 British GP: Mansell chases down Piquet on home ground, Damien Smith

We’d been counting down the gap, lap by lap, as Williams duo Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell blew past at fearsome old Silverstone. Mansell, the true grit, true Brit hero of the masses, was on a mission in front of his deeply partisan and noisy ‘barmy army’.

Despite the best efforts of Alain Prost early on, Piquet and Mansell crushed the opposition in the Silverstone sun, Honda power and their brilliant FW11Bs a cut above the rest. Prost jumped the Williams pair from the second row, but by Maggotts poleman Piquet was through and Mansell soon followed. With an eye on tyre wear and fuel consumption, they still left the rest for dead.

Patrick Head recalls the race as Mansell’s finest day in a Williams. “Nigel dropped well behind Nelson, complaining of a bad vibration, we think due to a wheel balance weight coming off,” says the team co-founder and legendary technical director. Before the days of pitlane speed limits, Mansell charged in for fresh Goodyears and scorched out in a fury, refusing to accept defeat.

“With about 25 laps to go, he was nearly 30 seconds behind Nelson, but still in second place,” says Head. “We had just assumed they would finish in that order, but lap by lap, with Nigel setting a series of new fastest laps, he closed on Nelson, and it became clear he could catch him.”

That much was evident to the crowd too – including this writer, 13 years old and standing among the Mansell faithful right at the braking point for Stowe. If I close my eyes, I can still see it unravelling in a 190mph flash: the cars appearing into view almost as one from Chapel Curve, the violent vibrations of speed down Hangar Straight, the dummy left, Piquet’s jink to defend and Mansell’s glorious swoop to the inside. Through the turn the Canon-liveried rear wings were side by side, almost touching. But Mansell was past and gone – on lap 63 of 65. We roared as one, a moment of pure sporting joy.

It had been all or nothing, ‘Red 5’ running out of fuel directly after the flag. We swamped the track in celebration, then climbed dutifully back over the sleepers in time to see the man with the most famous moustache in motorsport riding pillion on a police motorcycle. They stopped in front of us, Mansell climbed off – and kissed the track, Pontiff-style, right where he’d sold his dummy. Blessed be the day.

Mansell had already defeated Piquet at Brands Hatch in 1986, and would win his home race again in crushing fashion in both 1991 and 1992. But 1987 was something else. It was the greatest race I’d ever seen. It still is.

Moss and Jenkinson averaged nearly 100mph across Italian roads

Moss and Jenkinson averaged nearly 100mph across Italian roads

Photo by: Motorsport Images

5. 1955 Mille Miglia: Moss’s epic record-breaking Italian job, Damien Smith

The greatest single lap in history, 1000 miles around Italy, from Brescia to Rome and back again – all recorded for posterity in the greatest piece of writing on motor racing ever committed to paper, by his funny little co-driver with the long beard and specs. Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson on the Mille Miglia in 1955… it just doesn’t get any better.

“You only had one chance to get it right, on every corner for 1000 miles, boy!” Moss recalled 50 years later of his greatest achievement in a racing car. “I really did regard it as a special challenge. It was never just another race.”

He’d made three previous attempts on the Mille Miglia, all with Jaguar – all had ended in failure – before he rolled the gleaming Mercedes-Benz 300SLR up the Brescia starting ramp just ahead of 7.22am on 1 May 1955. The idea of carrying a navigator had originated from American team-mate John Fitch, while journalist and friend ‘Jenks’ had made himself the obvious candidate by his complete lack of nerves on a lap with Moss in a Maserati A6GCS around fearsome Pescara.

Three reconnaissance trips piecing together six laps were not without peril on open roads. Jenks’s detailed notes, transcribed to a novel ‘loo roll’ lodged in an alloy box with a Perspex screen and twin rollers, were key to Moss gaining the freedom to give his full attention to “ninth-tenths motoring”. His navigator devised 15 hand signals to give direction when the blare from the Merc’s straight-eight ruled out an intercom.

Only two non-Italians, Rudolf Caracciola for Mercedes in 1931 and Huschke von Hanstein for BMW in 1940, had conquered the Mille Miglia before. Moss and Jenks privately expected to finish third at best, behind team-mates Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling – and that was only by discounting the Ferraris of race specialists Eugenio Castellotti and ‘King of the Mountains’ Piero Taruffi. As it was, the Ferraris wilted and even The Maestro had to give best to his young friend – as he did on other occasions in sportscars.

Car ‘722’ made it to the capital in the lead, Moss and Jenks then defying the old saying ‘First in Rome is never first home’. Once clear of the Futa and Raticosa passes, the race’s back was broken. Travelling north towards Brescia, they passed a twin-engined aircraft at 170mph, and then another. As they powered through crowded streets and crossed the line at more than 100mph, a panda-eyed Stirling asked his friend: “Do you think we won?” Oh yes – in a record-smashing 10h7m48s, at an average of nearly 98mph. Never a Formula 1 world champion? Who cares? On days like these, The Boy was the best there’s been.

Massa's grace in F1 world championship defeat added to the 2008 title-decider drama

Massa's grace in F1 world championship defeat added to the 2008 title-decider drama

Photo by: Motorsport Images

4. 2008 Brazilian GP: Hamilton denies Massa in the season’s final seconds, Alex Kalinauckas

The conclusion to the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix has gone down in Formula 1 folklore as legendary. But just as well remembered as Lewis Hamilton passing Timo Glock in the last corner of the campaign’s final lap is how his title rival handled a stunning defeat so nobly.

Felipe Massa had started the season finale seven points behind Hamilton (when a win was worth 10), but level on five wins apiece. The Ferrari driver led away from pole on intermediate tyres – the first sector of the Interlagos track had been doused with an intense but short rain shower – while Hamilton started fourth.

Waiting until almost all the rest had switched to slicks cost Hamilton at the end of the opening stint and he fell to seventh before recovering back to the fourth spot that was more than enough to take the title.

But when the rain returned with just seven laps remaining, everyone except the Toyota drivers pitted and this dropped Hamilton back to fifth – the last place he could finish and still be champion with Massa dominating up front. Everything was still in the Briton’s control until he ran wide at the final corner when Robert Kubica moved to unlap his BMW Sauber, and Sebastian Vettel nipped through too with fewer than three laps left.

It appeared as though Hamilton would lose a second successive title to Interlagos heartbreak, but then the rain intensified and, on the last lap, Glock’s Toyota lost 17 seconds sliding on its slicks. Vettel and Hamilton powered past at the final corner, denying Massa, who’d crossed the line as champion to win the race, before the final results took his dream away by one point.

“It was a fantastic race,” recalls Massa. “I started on pole position, I won the race, fastest lap – everything was just perfect.”

While the Ferrari and McLaren teams had contrasting commiseration and celebration stations unfolding in their respective garages, Massa returned to the pits to face his boisterous home supporters. After taking a moment in his cockpit, he climbed from his F2008 to beat his chest and bow before being embraced by Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali. But it was his reaction to defeat while walking onto the podium and after collecting the winner’s trophy a few minutes later that earned the Brazilian such praise. He saluted the crowd repeatedly as he roared his emotions, defiantly refusing to let his disappointment at the result overcome the pride in his performance.

“I just tried to be myself,” he explains. “To show what I was feeling – from my heart. I never really thought about anything – ‘if I do this’ or whatever – it was just like an automatic feeling that I was having. That was what I was trying to show the people. It helped that I won the race. It helped that I couldn’t do better than what I did.”

Arguably Stewart's best-ever win, but not what he picks as the race of his life

Arguably Stewart's best-ever win, but not what he picks as the race of his life

Photo by: Sutton Images

3. 1968 German GP: Formula 1’s greatest wet-weather victory? Kevin Turner

Virtuosity in the wet is regarded as one of the hallmarks of a great driver. Like his friend and fellow Scot Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart starred in treacherous conditions on several occasions. But there’s one that stands out – and was selected in 2017 as Autosport’s greatest F1 drive in the rain.

PLUS: Ranking F1's greatest wet-weather drives

The old 14.2-mile Nurburgring was challenging enough in the dry but was something else again in the mist and rain that greeted the 20 starters of the 1968 German GP. Stewart had qualified down in sixth in his Ken Tyrrell-run Matra, having missed the best of the generally poor weather during practice. He was also driving with his right wrist in a plastic support, after breaking his scaphoid in an F2 accident at Jarama three months earlier.

Just as he would show at Monza the following season, Stewart used his brain to get an advantage, this time taking to the grippier concrete surface of the pitlane (no barriers between pits and track in those days!) to drive past his rivals slipping and sliding on the asphalt at the start. Then he demonstrated his tenacity and bravery, overtaking Chris Amon’s Ferrari at Adenau and then the Lotus of Graham Hill at Schwalbenschwanz despite blinding spray.

Finally, Stewart underlined his wet-weather genius, completing the first lap eight seconds ahead and his second tour more than half a minute clear of the field. He recorded 9m36s for his eighth lap of 14, which was 15s faster than anyone else would manage before conditions got even worse. He was helped by the fact that his Dunlop tyres were superior to the Firestones used by Lotus and Ferrari, but still the sheer driving challenge was huge.

“All you could do was to try to keep the car halfway under control,” said Stewart in Maurice Hamilton’s 2002 book Ken Tyrrell. “It was like a juggler in a high wind with lightweight balls.

“Normally, on a shorter circuit, your pitboard would give you the gaps so you always had a pretty good idea of what you needed to do to keep the guy behind at arm’s length. But not here. I wanted to make the gap bigger every lap.”

Stewart also had to call on his adaptability, dealing with a sticking throttle by flicking the ignition on and off, and survived at least one scary moment. He completed the 2h19m contest at an average speed of just 85.7mph but took the chequered flag four minutes ahead of Hill and Jochen Rindt’s Brabham.

Unlike Tyrrell, Stewart did not select this race as his greatest – that honour is reserved for his 1973 Italian GP recovery charge after a puncture – but his victory on the most fearsome of race circuits in appalling conditions will forever have its place in motorsport folklore.

Ford got its result but how it went about it didn't please all

Ford got its result but how it went about it didn't please all

Photo by: Motorsport Images

2. 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours: Ford finally gets its revenge on Ferrari, Damien Smith

They threw the kitchen sink, then created a kitchen sink drama. Cold revenge had fired Ford’s ambition to defeat Ferrari and conquer Le Mans, and now, after the bitter blow of 1965 – six GT40s went in, not a single one came out – nothing was left to chance. Nothing, that is, except the infighting and rancour between the Blue Oval’s teams and drivers.

This time, after glory at Daytona and Sebring, eight of the seven-litre GT40 MkIIs lined up for the Big One, from three camps: a trio from Shelby American, three more from Holman Moody and a pair from Alan Mann Racing. United by a cause to avenge Enzo Ferrari’s snub of Ford’s advances in 1963, after 22 wasted days of negotiation, the two US teams and the British outpost remained fiercely opposed on how each planned to be the one to put down the dreaded Prancing Horse once and for all. Dan Gurney delivered pole for Shelby at a little over 142mph, then led the early going, in a race that was fought at a searing pace.

Three of the GT40s wilted before midnight – diff, clutch, head gasket – then Graham Hill dropped out in the wee small hours with broken front suspension. Was woeful history about to repeat? Not this time. At dawn, the top six were all Fords, the works propped up by privateers, and soon the last of the Ferraris was spent. But the game was not yet up. Not with Henry Ford II in situ, having dropped the flag at the start. There was still a race to be won, lost, negotiated and argued over.

Ken Miles wanted victory at the Big One, and deserved it too after all his sweat to perfect the GT40. In the light blue number 1, teamed with Denny Hulme (too laid back for his liking), Miles’s destiny was ripped from his hands as he faced the all-black New Zealand entry of Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. Both were Shelby cars, but tensions ratcheted further when the plan was revealed for a dead heat.

When it came to the crunch at 4pm on Sunday, did Miles back off in protest or McLaren accelerate in uncharacteristic petulance? It didn’t matter. The French had already decided: non to a dead heat. The black car had started down the road from the blue one, therefore had covered the greater distance – by 20 metres. McLaren and Amon looked bemused in victory, Miles close to tears. But a Ford had won, that was the point. And a Ferrari never would again (until now?).

The epilogue was tinged in tragedy. As Ford started a roll of four straight Le Mans victories, Miles returned to the States to develop the lightweight J-Car – and crashed to his death at Riverside in August. Recognition would come eventually, but from an unlikely source. A Hollywood leading man? With that face? You’d better believe it.

McRae comes out on top in the greatest motorsport moment vote

McRae comes out on top in the greatest motorsport moment vote

Photo by: Motorsport Images

1. 1995 RAC Rally: McRae becomes Britain’s first World Rally champion, David Evans

Colin McRae’s victory on the 1995 RAC Rally would have further reaching consequences than even the Scot himself could have imagined. Or hoped for. Just about every aspect of that magnificent victory has been debated, deliberated and dissected. For fans, it’s the story that just keeps giving.

Rewind one round and you’ve got McRae and Derek Ringer coming close to running over members of the Subaru World Rally Team management in Spain – seriously. Frustrated to the point of despair, team principal David Richards despatched John Kennard, Nigel Riddle and John Spiller.

Riddle remembers: “DR told us, ‘Don’t worry, Colin will understand.’ As we stood there in the middle of the road, you could hear the car coming and I thought, ‘There’s no bloody way Colin will understand.’” The Subaru barely lifted as the trio dived clear.

That flat-out approach continued into a season finale played out before McRae’s adoring British fans. And typically, the season finale encompassed a Sunday around the stately homes, a trip north to Kielder and the Lakes, before two days in Wales to decide whether it would be a third title for Carlos Sainz or a first for the Scot. The points situation at the start? They were level.

Third after Sunday’s ‘Mickey Mouse’ stages, McRae destroyed the rest of the field in Hamsterley Forest, taking almost two seconds per mile out of the best of the rest through the first all-gravel 17-miler. From that high came the low of the Pundershaw puncture on the very next stage. First became second and a 1m14s deficit to Sainz. The start of the charge.

“That was amazing,” recalled father Jimmy. “He had the puncture first and then the suspension trouble at the end of Kershope a few stages later. None of it bothered him. That night he told me, ‘Nothing will stop me winning this rally.’ And nothing did.”

By the end of day three McRae was back to the front. Sainz was beaten.

Thousands lined the route through 22 November. And waiting at the finish of Clocaenog East were mum and dad. Margaret said: “I’d never been good at spectating and I wasn’t good on that event! But the moment at the finish was incredible, so many people. The party was quite something…”

Those far-reaching consequences came via the Calgary Herald. Alison Hamilton recalled: “I was in Canada, Colin and I weren’t together at the time. I saw the news and thought, ‘Hmm, maybe I’d better give him a phone…’ They would be married three years later.

Does McRae's 1995 WRC title win make your greatest motorsport moment?

Does McRae's 1995 WRC title win make your greatest motorsport moment?

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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