November 22, 1995 was the day Colin McRae and Derek Ringer landed the sport’s biggest prize by winning the FIA World Rally Championship on the final round, the RAC Rally (now known as Rally GB).
And what a way to win it. McRae and his Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz arrived in Britain level on points after a highly charged penultimate round in Spain, where team orders had been implemented – then ignored – but ultimately 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.
Video: Colin McRae - 25 Years A Champion
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 dropped two minutes with a puncture on the second day, drove 16km with the right front suspension failing and then endured a nail-biting moment when the hydraulics started failing on the third of four days.
Sainz’s run wasn’t straightforward either. The radiator broke on his sister car on the event’s second stage and the Spaniard feared his fight might be done 24 hours later when the Subaru’s temperature rocketed.
The British-based Prodrive squad kept both cars in the battle, but ultimately there was only going to be one winner.
A year earlier, McRae and Ringer had finally nailed a home success, the first Brits to win the RAC since Roger Clark 17 years before them. On accepting the trophy in 1994, McRae pledged his intention to return to Chester in 1995 to fight for the title.
On this day, 25 years ago, he delivered on that pledge. And he won the fight.
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.
It’s not often it happens, but Colin was unbeatable at home 25 years ago. After emerging from stages still used on Britain’s round of the WRC today, he and Ringer headed to the finish where, to the delight of thousands of fans, McRae spun his Impreza in a series of world championship-celebrating donuts.
That done, the pair climbed on top of the car, to be joined by the whole Subaru team. David Richards’ squad celebrated a second consecutive one-two-three podium lockout, a pair of results which were enough for them to usurp Japanese rival Mitsubishi and confirm Subaru as world champions for the first time.
Courtesy of a series of heroic drives, McRae had already begun to lay down a legend that would live long, but it was Wednesday 22November, 1995 that confirmed him as the world’s best. A day never to be forgotten by rally fans around the world.
• Click here to watch WRC TV’s new documentary, Colin McRae: 25 Years A Champion, charting the Scot’s remarkable title triumph.