Steiner: Colin McRae was “the most gifted driver I ever met”

Haas Formula 1 boss Gunther Steiner reckons the late world rally champion Colin McRae was the “most gifted driver” he ever met during his motorsport career that began in rallying. 

Steiner: Colin McRae was “the most gifted driver I ever met”

Steiner worked alongside 1995 world champion McRae across the 1999 and 2000 campaigns during a spell at the factory Ford WRC operation run by M-Sport.

At M-Sport, Steiner was operating as director of engineering, having previously entered the motorsport industry as a rally mechanic for the works Mazda team in 1986, before enjoying roles at the Jolly Club Lancia team (1991-1996) and Prodrive in 1997.

Working alongside McRae and Carlos Sainz at M-Sport was Steiner’s last role in WRC before moving into F1 first with Jaguar in 2001 and then Red Bull (2005-2008) before joining Haas as team principal in 2014.

Steiner reflected on his time working with McRae at Ford in a guest appearance on the WRC’s official podcast this week, where he labelled the Scot, who died in a helicopter crash in 2007, as one of the most natural drivers he’s ever seen. 

“I got on very well with Colin,” said Steiner on the WRC Backstories podcast. “At the time I think everyone wanted Colin.

"Of course there was money and being a Scotsman money was important for Colin, but it wasn’t everything and I think Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport boss] could convince him about the future. Malcolm was a driver himself so he could explain to Colin where he wants to go and therefore he joined Ford. 

“Colin was the man at the time and I think there will never be anybody, I mean there is always somebody, but I haven’t seen anyone with the sheer talent Colin had at the time. 

Colin McRae, Subaru Impreza 555

Colin McRae, Subaru Impreza 555

Photo by: WRC.com

“For him, everything was natural he didn’t need to put any effort in to drive a car quick, it was just there. Some people can talk a lot like me but he can drive fast. I think he was the most gifted driver I ever met.

“He was pretty good [at giving feedback]. If something didn’t work, he was pretty good at telling you. He was pretty straight forward. 

“For Colin, everything was natural, either it worked or it didn’t work and then the rest was your problem. 

“Carlos was going into detail and with Colin it was yes or no, there was nothing in between. If it was no it was your problem. It was black or white. If you had a good test it was very enjoyable to test with Colin, but if it went badly it was the least enjoyable test you could do because he was pissed off because he thought he was wasting his time.”

While McRae enjoyed a career largely based around rallying, the Scotsman did flirt with F1 courtesy of a run out with the Jordan F1 team at Silverstone in 1996.    

Steiner was asked if he would consider returning to his rallying roots in the future, adding: “Never say never. I have said it before, I never had a plan to be a F1 team principal and I got there and worked my way there so I don’t know what is coming next. I never say never to anything, everything can happen. 

“For me, if there is a challenge or an opportunity I go there. If there is something I find interesting it can be anything. I won’t say yes I’m going back to rallying or no I’m not. I don’t know.”  

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

shares
comments

Related video

Friday Favourite: A misunderstood WRC rivalry which forged a friendship
Previous article

Friday Favourite: A misunderstood WRC rivalry which forged a friendship

Next article

Sordo’s 2023 WRC plans remain unknown as he rules out full campaign

Sordo’s 2023 WRC plans remain unknown as he rules out full campaign
The key steps on Rovanpera's romp to a history-making WRC title Plus

The key steps on Rovanpera's romp to a history-making WRC title

With only cameo roles played by legendary Sebastiens Ogier and Loeb, Kalle Rovanpera ushered in the new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship by becoming its youngest champion. Here's how Toyota's Flying Finn crushed the competition, led by Hyundai's departing star Ott Tanak

WRC
21 h
How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book Plus

How trailblazer Kalle Rovanpera has ripped up the WRC record book

At the tender age of 22, Kalle Rovanpera is redefining what’s possible to achieve in rallying and inspiring a new legion of fans as a result. The newly-crowned World Rally Championship title-winner and his peers reflect on his ability and the start of his success in the top tier

WRC
Nov 26, 2022
How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party Plus

How Hyundai and Neuville gatecrashed Toyota's homecoming party

Thierry Neuville signed off the 2022 World Rally Championship season with his second win of the season in Japan after Toyota rival Elfyn Evans suffered a late puncture. With Sebastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanpera also delayed by punctures and incidents, it opened the door for Neuville and Ott Tanak to record Hyundai's second 1-2 of the season in Toyota's own backyard

WRC
Nov 14, 2022
The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer Plus

The message a WRC stalwart sent which its new king couldn’t answer

Sebastien Ogier might be the outgoing World Rally champion, but it didn’t stop him reminding everyone of the skills that made him an eight-time world champion. As victory at Rally Spain led Toyota’s charge to a titles clean sweep, it did pose a question to newly-crowned champion Kalle Rovanpera which he could not answer

WRC
Oct 24, 2022
Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver Plus

Autosport gets to grips as a WRC co-driver

The majority of headlines may focus on the exploits of drivers in the World Rally Championship, but the challenges facing their co-drivers are no less demanding. Autosport got in the passenger seat with Toyota Gazoo Racing to find out just what it takes to succeed

WRC
Oct 6, 2022
How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge Plus

How Rally New Zealand encapsulated record-breaking Rovanpera’s WRC title charge

Kalle Rovanpera’s coronation as the new World Rally Championship king had been a long time coming, only to be postponed by hiccups in Belgium and Greece. But at Rally New Zealand the “Full Send” Finn demonstrated exactly how he's been able to rewrite the rallying record book as he stormed to victory to become the youngest ever world champion

WRC
Oct 3, 2022
How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career Plus

How a Toyota lifeline reignited Lappi's WRC career

Motorsport can be brutal at times. One moment a driver can be the next big thing, but it can spiral in the other direction so quickly. Thankfully, sometimes drivers receive second chances. And Esapekka Lappi has taken his World Rally Championship lifeline in both hands

WRC
Sep 28, 2022
How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy Plus

How team orders could make Hyundai's historic Acropolis Rally a Greek tragedy

Thierry Neuville led a maiden Hyundai 1-2-3 in the World Rally Championship, as the previously soft i20 N became a battle-hardened Greek warrior at the Acropolis Rally. But with team orders in play between the winner and Hyundai’s title protagonist Ott Tanak, could the result come back to haunt the team?

WRC
Sep 12, 2022