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  Home > People > Drivers > K to O > McRae, Colin
Colin McRae
Son of five-times British Champion Jimmy Mcrae and older brother of Alister McRae, Colin was by far the most successful member of this Scottish rallying dynasty.

Colin belongs to those drivers who are fascinated by all mechanical things from early age and he climbed to driving seat already before he went to school, albeit if only to steer a car into a yard while sitting in his grandfather's knee. School was not to his liking and after finishing Lanark Grammar School, Colin only studied as far as completing one year course in mechanical engineering on Coatbridge College. These studies, however brief, came handy as he initially worked at Archie's Autos at Lanark until moving to work with his father's plumbing and heating business.

That arrangement was perfect for young McRae, not only did he acquire skills needed to make a living (though he would never really need those) but it also allowed him to have enough freedom to attend the rallies. Getting time off from work to compete in rallies is an obstacle for start-up rally drivers. Besides the benefit of that freedom, Colin also did get some benefit from McRae's name even though at times it also worked against him. In his autobiography The Real McRae Colin does not take a stand as to whether name McRae was more a help or a hindrance, he simply states it was both.

Colin started driving when he was only 14 years old, at first in old mining pit with a friend and his scrap yard Mini and then more seriously at autotests two years later. These were a step forward but not really appealing, slow driving in parking lot around cones and such. Colin got his driving license when he turned 17 and immediately started rallying. First one was on borrowed Avenger 1600 and in true McRae style he went off but only after almost having led his class, eventually finishing 14th.

From borrowed Avenger, Colin progressed first to rear-wheel driven Talbot Sunbeam, then front-wheel driven Vauxhall Nova with which he made a name for himself, even making his WRC debut in it. For 1988 he was backed by Peugeot UK in National Championship where he won his class but also drove Ford Sierra in Scottish Championship where he won overall title. For the next two years Colin continued to drive Ford Sierras, both in Group N form but also more and more a Group A version. Ford however did not offer him any support and Colin was forced to run on a very tight privateer budget, buying preparation from R.E.D and even having their friendly mechanics coming to overseas events to work for him for free.

Then, towards the end of 1990 he got an unexpected phone call from David Richards and an offer to drive for Subaru in British Championship. He won four of seven events on his way to BRC title which he captured next year as well in style, winning all six rounds and 92 out of 112 stages in entire championship! On the side of BRC, Colin also got some WRC outings and on his only 9th WRC start in 1992 Rally Sweden he was 2nd which, at the time of writing, still is the best result for UK driver there. Same year he also drove to hearts and minds of Finns when he came to 1000 Lakes for the first time, rolling his car no fewer than three times (once in shakedown and twice during the rally) but refusing to give up and eventually finishing eight in completely wrecked Subaru Legacy.

For 1993 Colin became part of the Subaru WRC team and for the first time had a full WRC programme. Season was a typical for McRae with it's ups and downs but it all came to good when he scored his first WRC win in New Zealand, being third youngest WRC winner at the time. For next season, Subaru signed Carlos Sainz to replace Ari Vatanen and Colin remained as second driver hungry for success. Season got off to a rocky start, after five starts McRae had only one finish and one championship point to his name. One of the DNF's was the famous incident in Acropolis where he was excluded because officials felt that windscreen of his car had been changed in a place where it blocked passage of other competitors. Windscreen had cracked when bonnet flew open as officials had not secured the bonnet properly after an inspection and Subaru felt that they had permission for the repairs.

But then came the New Zealand and McRae took his second win there, allowing him to come to RAC in high spirits. Colin's home event had never treated him well before even though he had been in the lead for number of times, so far he had reached the finish only twice, sixth on both occasions. Before 1994 RAC there was much talk about possible team orders by Subaru as team leader Sainz had a shot at drivers' title but needed a win to do that. But Sainz went off and McRae, who had been leading all the time, scored his first win at home without needing to worry about anything.

From happy feelings of home win started the 1995 season. And for Colin, it started much like 1994 - not so well, with two DNF's from the first two events. By mid-season he was again trailing championship leader and team-mate Sainz by 30 points but a third win in New Zealand elevated Colin within striking distance. Second place from Australia catapulted him in the championship lead with two events left and then came Catalunya. Subaru wanted to secure the makes' championship, freezing the results before final leg with Carlos leading and Colin a close second. McRae did not agree and blasted into lead, taking a direct collision course with team boss David Richards. In one of the most famous scenes of WRC, two Subaru bosses John Spiller and Nigel Riddle try to wave Colin down in vain in the final stage as blue Impreza streaks past at full throttle, narrowly missing them. Colin faced one of the hardest decisions of his life and in the end, he clocked late into final time control, being forced to give in facing quite a direct threat of immediate sacking.

As a result, Colin and Carlos went to final round on equal points, both driving in a team where atmosphere was not the best possible. Champion would be the one who would have the better result and despite two minutes lost to a puncture, Colin emerged as a clear winner. He was fastest on 18 out of 28 stages, often setting times much faster than anyone else. Colin had won the rally and championship title.

With such a strong results under his belt, many viewed Colin as a favourite for 1996 championship. However, 1996 would be a difficult season for him despite some very good results. On course to a certain win in Indonesia, he rolled the car into a retirement when intercom failed. In Argentina he hit a spectator in service area and FIA fined him 50.000 pounds for that. In Finland he rolled from high speed which upset David Richards - again. Towards the end of the season, Colin's luck turned and he won both San Remo and Catalunya and on top of that, he was made a Member of British Empire (MBE) by the Queen.

1997 saw Colin split with his long-time co-driver Derek Ringer. The pair had met very early on, their first rally together having been Jim Clark Rally in 1986 - Colin being only 18 at the time. Older co-driver had been a good pair when driver was young but now, with David Richards pressing for the change, Colin decided to change to Nicky Grist. At the time the split was not entirely amicable but Colin and Derek re-joined their forces later proving that any grievances had been forgotten. For 1997, Subaru had a new Impreza WRC and there were high hopes for the season. Unfortunately engine problems cut many events short and despite winning last three events of the season in a row, Colin was left just one point short of the title. Next year was to be Colin's last at Subaru, having spent a total of eight years with them. Unfortunately it was even worse than previous year, Colin only finishing third in the championship and at RAC where he retired with engine problems, he couldn't find any positive points to say about the season.

For 1999 he joined Ford, who had lured him with a promise of a new and exciting car and hefty paycheck. At the time, salary of three million pounds per year was unheard of in WRC. Focus had been designed in record time and 1999 was thought to be a learning year. When McRae won both Safari and Portugal against all expectations, hopes rose high at Ford camp. The misfortunes of the rest of the season seemed harsh in comparison, besides the two wins Colin finished only once, crashing out or experiencing technical difficulties in all other events. For the 2000, Sainz re-appeared as his team-mate and suddenly there was competition within the team too. Colin had his usual poor start for the season but after string of good results he was already second in the championship - until came the time for Corsica. Focus clipped a mountain in a left-hand corner, was catapulted into air high over the roadside barrier and ended upside down in a ravine. Colin was trapped in the car, his cheekbone smashed and drifting in and out of consciousness. Luckily for him, Nicky Grist got out and effected a brave rescue.

That was the worst accident in Colin's career, a photo taken just after the incident shows just how bruised his face was. Yet, he was determined to get back into the car and fight for the championship and only three weeks later he was at the start line for the next event. Despite the huge fighting spirit Colin demonstrated, the championship eluded him that year. 2001 was a bit similar, again a poor start for the season and then strong middle season with three wins in a trot. In championship terms, the 2001 had an ending that most seasons do not have with no less than four drivers going into the final round all with a real chance for the title, McRae being one of them with a one point lead over Makinen. Within four stages, both Makinen and McRae were out. 2002 was a single-horse race, Gronholm dominated the season and left only crumbs to other drivers.

Facing financial pressures, Ford decided to let both Colin and Carlos go and retained only their young drivers for 2003 season. McRae promptly signed with Citroen where also Sainz wound up little later, helped by a private sponsorship deal. Colin started the season with his career-best result in Monte Carlo, second between Loeb and Sainz in Citroen's 1-2-3. Unfortunately that was to be not only his best result of the season but also his last podium finish and even though Colin scored more championship points than in the past five seasons (thanks to the new points system), he was only seventh in the championship and Citroen decided to keep Carlos for 2004. Colin was out of work at a time when the number of WRC teams dwindled dramatically and for a while it seemed that his career was done.

Almost two years later, Skoda finally reached a deal with Colin, having spoken with him several times. McRae drove for them in two rallies and performed relatively well, running as high as third in Australia until team decided to change clutch and went OTL while doing that. The need for the change was not understood, nor was the real reason for exceeding the time limit and rumors of a some sort conspiracy among the team management surfaced. Colin's final drive was in 2006 Turkey when Kronos asked him in as a replacement for injured Loeb.

Colin was a great inspiration to a generation of rally fans, making the sport known not only through his flat-out driving style and rebellious image but also through a very successful range of computer rally game series bearing his name. He was a huge natural talent, even to a degree that in fact his father never taught him - Colin learned it all by himself. It is tragic that the driver who had survived such a long and distinguished career and had numerous accidents in rally cars was to die as his helicopter crashed near family's Lanark home in Scotland, 15th of September 2007.

WRC starts:146
first: Sweden 1987
latest: Turkey 2006
Resultswins:25 (17.1% of starts)
second places: 9 
third places: 8  
total podiums: 42 (28.8% of starts)
points finishes: 79  
total points scored: 626  (drivers' championship points)
DNF's: 60 (41.1% of starts)
Stage wins: 477 
WRC titles:winner of 1995 FIA World Championship for Drivers
First WRC event: 1987 Sweden
First DNF: 1987 Great Britain
First scored point: 1989 New Zealand (5th)
First stage win: 1989 New Zealand (SS32)
First time led rally: 1991 Great Britain (SS12)
First podium: 1992 Sweden
First win: 1993 New Zealand
Career summary
  Team  StartsWinsPodiumsDNF'sPointsRank
 1987  Private2 0 0 1 0  -   
 1988  Private1 0 0 1 0  -   
 1989  Private3 0 0 1 8 37th 
 1990  Private1 0 0 0 6 40th 
 1991  Subaru1 0 0 1 0  -   
 1992  Subaru5 0 1 1 34 8th 
 1993  Subaru,
8 1 2 3 50 5th 
 1994  Subaru8 2 2 4 49 4th 
 1995  Subaru8 2 5 2 90 1st 
 1996  Subaru9 3 4 3 92 2nd 
 1997  Subaru14 5 6 6 62 2nd 
 1998  Subaru13 3 5 5 45 3rd 
 1999  Ford14 2 2 11 23 6th 
 2000  Ford14 2 6 7 43 4th 
 2001  Ford14 3 5 5 42 2nd 
 2002  Ford14 2 3 4 35 4th 
 2003  Citroen14 0 1 3 45 7th 
 2005  Skoda2 0 0 1 2 23rd 
 2006  Private1 0 0 1 0  -   
Colin McRae
Nationality: United Kingdom
Birthday: 05-Aug-1968
Died: 15-Sep-2007

Colin's 100th
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Colin McRae reached his 100th start in Rally Australia in year 2000. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin McRae
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1992 Scottish Rally, a BRC event, was family success for McRaes as Colin was 1st, Alister 2nd and Jimmy 4th. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin's first WRC win
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First win in WRC came in New Zealand 1993, after a mature drive and good fight against Francois Delecour and Didier Auriol. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
1995 World Champion
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The 1995 season culminated to Colin's second home win in RAC. That win also made sure of his Championship title. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin McRae
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Colin McRae, Subaru Impreza and Rally GB were a combination that rarely failed to produce a win, here in 1997. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin McRae
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For 1999 season Colin moved from Subaru to Ford to drive the brand new Ford Focus WRC. Season started better than it ended, here on victorious Safari. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window

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Colin's 24th win and fifth in Acropolis in 2002. It is amazing that Colin won Acropolis five times, his rash driving style is not supposed to suit the rough conditions. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin with Skoda
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In 2005, Colin came back to drive for Skoda in two events. In Rally GB he was 7th and ran as high as 3rd in Australia until clutch change went wrong. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window
Colin's final event
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Final WRC event for Colin was Turkey 2006 when Kronos called him in to replace injured Sebastien Loeb. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window