Colin McRae was made to drive rally cars. In the mid-1990s, he had the most astonishing ability to fire a Group A Subaru Impreza between the trees faster than anybody else in the world. It was that ability allied to gob-smacking speed and outrageous bravery which enabled the man known as Supermac to win 25 of the 146 World Rally Championship rounds he started.
McRae’s talents were obvious on the British circuit from the minute he stepped aboard a battered Talbot Sunbeam, hammering a tired old car through stages with indecent haste. He continued to flatten his learning curve - along with the odd panel here and there - in a Vauxhall Nova and variety of Sierra Cosworths. When he finished sixth overall on the 1990 RAC, Subaru chief David Richards had seen enough and contacted Colin’s father Jim and did a deal. Two British titles followed along with a limited programme of world events.
Colin was beginning to make an impression on the world stage. He certainly did so in the woods around Jyvaskyla in the summer of 1992. He rolled his Legacy at shakedown and then rolled the car on a further three occasions. He continued at unabated speed and finished eighth.
McRae’s speed was simply breath-taking. Unfortunately, his flat-out approach in a sport where experience counts for almost as much as a weighty right foot was taking its toll on Subaru. The first win had to come soon. It did. New Zealand, 1993 and McRae’s duck was broken.
The Legacy’s first win ushered in the new car, the Impreza. Now this was Colin’s car. He would win 15 times in the various guises of Impreza from 1994 to 1998. In the middle of that time came an emotional first win at home, on the 1994 RAC, and an even more emotional first title - clinched in Chester, 12 months later after a tight and at times awkward battle with Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz.
With McRae topping the world aged 27, in a sport where you’re reckoned to be at your best in your thirties, the Scot was tipped for plenty more titles in the coming years. Somehow, those wins didn’t follow.
Despite winning five rallies in 1997, he missed out to Tommi Makinen by just one point. Makinen and McRae shaped an age of rallying. Both were born in the same spirit of never giving up; if there was the hope of a win, however feint, they would give there all. This led to some immense battles between the pair - with wins and scrap metal coming in equal measure.
McRae came close to the 2001 title, but stacked his Ford Focus in spectacular fashion on the Rally GB decider - leaving fellow Brit Richard Burns to win the championship.
McRae’s last win, the 2002 Safari, was a measure of his skill as a driver. His exploits with the throttle wide open were well-documented, but his three African wins demonstrated a canny ability to drive at a measured pace. McRae was the complete driver and a global superstar - although not one who searched such a spotlight.
The rally world was rocked last year, when McRae - along with his son Johnny and two family friends - were killed in a helicopter crash.