McRae celebrations at Wales Rally GBposted in RSCOT09 | 11 | 2015

    THIS WEEK'S BRITISH finale to the World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB, promises to be an emotional few days as the sport celebrates the 20th anniversary of Colin McRae being crowned world champion.

    The 27-year-old from Lanark, who remains the youngest driver ever to win the WRC, sealed his first, and only, world title when he beat Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz in the season finale in Britain.

    McRae — who tragically died in a helicopter crash in 2007 —  headed into what was then the Chester-based Network Q RAC Rally, knowing victory would see him become the first Brit to lift the world championship.

    The swashbuckling Scot had put together an impressive WRC campaign before reaching the nail-biting shoot-out.

    After retiring from the opening two rounds in Monte Carlo and Sweden, McRae finished on the podium in the third round in Portugal.

    McRae's fifth place finish in Corsica was followed two months later by his first win of the year, when he dominated in New Zealand for the third time in a row.

    That sparked a series of podium finishes, with the Scot bagging second in Australia in September, before his second place in Spain a month later — behind Sainz — set up the thrilling winner-take-all showdown in the Welsh forests.

    Related: Colin McRae inducted into Hall of Fame

    McRae (pictured) — cheered on by thousands of Saltire-waving, mud-splattered, cold and wet fans — delivered a dazzling, flamboyant and totally committed display. It was a signature performance, achieving record speeds in the process, which won the hearts of millions of fans all over the world.

    When he and Glasgow co-driver, Derek Ringer, flew through the timing beam in their iconic blue and yellow Subaru Impreza 555 at the end of the final stage, McRae had beaten Sainz by 36s, after more than five hours of thrilling, high-speed action.

    Amazingly, it was to be McRae's only world title. Second in 1996 and '97 — the latter by just one point, and on both occasions to Tommi Makinen's Mitsubishi — McRae again missed out in 2001.

    Entering the final round, again in Britain, on the edge of sealing the title, he heartbreakingly crashed out in his Ford Focus gifting the title, ironically, to Subaru's Richard Burns, co-driven by Perthshire's Robert Reid.

    But this week marks the celebration of McRae's win.

    "That week in Chester is still one of the highlights of our lives,” dad Jimmy McRae (watch video interview with Jimmy as Colin was inducted into Hall of Fame) admitted. "It doesn't seem 20 years ago that Margaret and I were at the finish in Chester celebrating Colin’s achievement.

    “It was such a proud moment for us all. What could possibly be better than Colin winning the World Championship on home soil?

    "It’s now hard to imagine that 20 years has passed since that amazing day.

    "The McRae family are humbled by the celebrations being organised in tribute to his memory."

    Jimmy, the five-times British rally champ and now 72-year-old veteran, will tackle this week's Network Q WRGB National Rally — which shadows the main WRC event over the same stages — in his "noisy V8 Firenza".

    The family will provide the title-winning Subaru Impreza 555 from its personal collection for public display at the Wales Rally GB Service Park in Deeside.

    In addition, the impressive two-tier structure in the Service Park will house three of McRae’s other most legendary rally cars, his 1997 Impreza — with which he won in Britain — plus two Ford Focus RS WRCs.

    And Manxman David Higgins will drive a Group N Subaru WRX STI, liveried in McRae's evocative throwback blue-and-yellow livery with classic gold wheels.

    “There is definitely going to be a lot of emotion when people see the car," former British and seven-time American champ Higgins said. "It is such a special livery.

    “It's really important to remember how important Colin and Derek winning the World Championship was for British rallying."

    Related: McRae and Meeke win at Knockhill

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    Jim McGill


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