From the start, it was clear that the fast and flowing gravel roads of New Zealand suited the 1995 world champion’s flamboyant style: the 1993 event was the first of three consecutive wins that he would go on to take in the land of the Long White Cloud.
However, it was actually a calm and considered approach to the event that brought the then 25-year-old his first WRC win. In the early stages of the event, he was fifth in the ageing Legacy.
But the classic 44-kilometre Motu Road - one of the greatest stages in the world, with its rollercoaster ride through stunning scenery - proved to be the turning point, where he set a blistering time to go in front. As well as McRae’s naturally flowing style, all those quick corners flattered the Legacy, whose boxer engine layout gave it a lower centre of gravity than its rivals and allowed it to turn in quicker.
The battle was far from over though: Didier Auriol (who eventually finished third) took the lead twice on the second and third days, before McRae got ahead for good. Auriol and Carlos Sainz actually won more stages than the Scot (nine and eight respectively) but it was McRae’s consistency that earned him the win.
It couldn’t have come at a better time: after a decade competing in the World Rally Championship and a three-year association with British preparation firm Prodrive, Subaru was eager for concrete results.
Colin’s father, Jimmy, recalls: “It was really just a question of when it was going to happen for Colin in those early years. Everybody knew all about Colin’s speed, but he had a great deal of natural mechanical sympathy as well - and his wins in places like New Zealand, the Safari and the Acropolis really showed that.”
McRae had been on the podium twice before winning in New Zealand in 1993 (on both occasions in Sweden, curiously enough). But it was on the legendary Motu Road, 19 years ago, that a star was really born.