And what a way to triumph. McRae and Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz arrived in Britain even on points after a tense penultimate round in Spain. There, team orders were enforced - and ignored - but eventually obeyed by the younger of the two Impreza drivers.
If there was one thing McRae hated more than finishing second, it was being told to finish second.
All that did was add more heat to what was already one of the tastiest world championship finales in years. And, when it arrived, the RAC didn’t disappoint.
McRae lost two minutes with a puncture on the second day and drove 16 kilometres with broken front right suspension. On top of that, he also had a nerve-racking moment when his car's hydraulics failed on day three.
WRC Greatest Drivers: Colin McRae
Sainz's run was also not without its dramas. The radiator on his sister car failed on the second stage of the event and the Spaniard thought it was all over when the engine temperature skyrocketed later in the event.
Amazingly, the Prodrive team managed to keep both cars in the running - but there could only be one winner.
Fastest on 18 of the event’s 28 stages, McRae bounced back from knock after knock and drove the rally of his life to edge the masterful Sainz. The two-time world champion admitted he had no answer to the Scot’s pace and power.
On a Wednesday afternoon in Chester, McRae became the first-ever British WRC champion at the same time as his Prodrive Subaru team clinched the manufacturers' crown.