The rallying world's tribute to 1995 WRC champion Colin McRae

Last weekend the rallying world paid tribute to Colin McRae, the 1995 world champion who died 10 years ago last month. DAVID EVANS explains what it meant to those involved

The rallying world's tribute to 1995 WRC champion Colin McRae

The big fella took a step back. He turned, grabbed the arms of his friend and whispered. "Sua figlia..." Mystified, I asked an Italian colleague for a translation.

"His daughter. The guy had seen Hollie [McRae] and understood that this was Colin's daughter."

Smiling and waving, Hollie had missed it all. But that moment summed up everything last weekend's Rallylegend event was about.

The organisers in San Marino had pulled together a quite astonishing list of world champions gathering - along with the cars they won their titles in - in memory of McRae's passing a decade ago.

Between them, drivers Stig Blomqvist, Juha Kankkunen, Petter Solberg, Sebastien Ogier, Sebastien Loeb, Marcus Gronholm, Didier Auriol, Miki Biasion, Timo Salonen and Ari Vatanen, and co-drivers Hans Thorselius (Bjorn Waldegaard), Luis Moya (Carlos Sainz), Nicky Grist and Derek Ringer (both Colin McRae) totalled 30 world championship titles.

And, in a hastily dressed basketball court in San Marino's Olympic Stadium, the crowd went wild as they emerged for a special champions' press conference on Saturday night.

But theirs' was nothing compared with the welcome McRaes, Jimmy, Margaret, Hollie and Alister received. Just to be doubly sure, a film of McRae magic was played out to a backdrop of a haunting cover of Bowie's Heroes.

Sitting high above the cloud in Serravalle's old town, five cylinders fire to mark the start of proceedings. The mist clears just in time. It's Stig in an E2. Then there's the inimitable fizz, woosh, pop, crackle of an S4 followed by the off-beat burble from the full range of Prodrive-sourced, mid-'90s Subaru hardware.

It's a Legacy, though, not an Impreza that's raising most smiles. Alister and Derek Ringer ran Colin's 1992 Swedish Rally Subaru Legacy RS as course car on the Rallylegend event.

Alister grinned: "Derek [Ringer] reckoned the car had 380bhp and weighed 1100 kilos in '92. Well, it's put a bit of weight on and lost some of its power since then!"

The event closed with Sunday's champion's parade around a stage known as The Legend. For that demonstration run, Hollie replaced Derek in the co-driver's seat. Saltire hanging from the window, the Scottish-crewed Subaru surfed another wave of emotion from the thousands packed on the banks.

"It's amazing," said Hollie, 19. "There are just so many people. After all these years you expect it to... not die down, but maybe be less of a big deal. You forget what a big deal it was. There was an eight-year-old who came and asked Gramps for his autograph; people who weren't even alive back then [during McRae's career] are so enthused by it all.

"It's really good that we can re-live those days with events like this. And I got asked for my autograph! That was really nice. I got to sign a picture of my dad.

"I've got to hear some lovely stories about dad this weekend, stuff I'd never heard before and that I just didn't know."

Gramps - five-time British Rally champion Jimmy - McRae still competes regularly and is, by extension, exposed to the raw emotion that comes with these kind of occasions. But it was a weekend of pleasure and pain handled with unflinching and characteristic dignity and stoicism.

Kris Meeke, a McRae lodger back in the day, drove a Citroen Xsara WRC from Colin's final full season.

"What a weekend," said Meeke. "So many people coming to share stories about Colin. Guys have come to me to talk about what he meant to them and they've had tears in their eyes. Colin was that special."

Beyond the stars and their cars, there's one man who had to be singled out for special mention. Luis Moya. He made it happen.

Petter Solberg explained: "When Luis calls, you answer, and when he suggests something like this, you say yes. And you say yes straight away. This weekend has been unbelievable, so full of emotion.

"To have these drivers and co-drivers together is fantastic, but to see the look for Jimmy, Margaret and Alister and Hollie the best thing. We love Colin... but they are McRaes and this was their time. I hope we made it special."

More than he could ever know.

shares
comments
Promoted: Dayinsure - the perfect partner for Wales Rally GB

Previous article

Promoted: Dayinsure - the perfect partner for Wales Rally GB

Next article

Ogier wary of 'complicated' Rally GB in pursuit of fifth WRC title

Ogier wary of 'complicated' Rally GB in pursuit of fifth WRC title
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant? Plus

Does Neuville have a point with his Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains Plus

How the WRC's new flying Finn reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Plus

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Plus

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Plus

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium Plus

How Hyundai's home hero delivered overdue WRC success in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Plus

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Plus

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021