McRae at 50: memories of a fellow Scot

Sunday (August 5) would have been the 50th birthday of Colin McRae. WRC All Live reporter and fellow Scot Colin Clark penned a personal tribute to the 1995 world champion:

“Scotland is a small country, less than 10 per cent of the population of England, but in motorsport we punch above our weight. Perhaps our greatest motorsport hero, certainly the greatest of my generation, was Colin McRae.

I wasn’t fortunate enough to be at stage ends when Colin was doing what many thought impossible for a Brit - winning rallies and world titles and rewriting the record books. I say unfortunate, but in some ways I was the fortunate one. I was a fan!

My early memories of Colin are as a sporting God and national icon. So you can imagine how I felt when I had the privilege of meeting him in a professional capacity. I was starstruck. I don’t lack confidence and rarely feel nerves, but on this occasion I’ll admit to a few butterflies.

It was Wales Rally GB 2005 and Colin was making a surprise WRC comeback with Skoda. I was close to the end of the Epynt stage, hoping some drivers might stop on the liaison section to give me a few words.

Thankfully I got the biggest prize. Seeing me standing there, furiously waving my microphone at him, Colin stopped. Excitement levels went into overdrive! No one other than another excitable Scot would have understood my garbled, slightly hysterical question but the great man did, and answered with his usual laconic charm.

McRae en route to Safari Rally victory in 1999

I even managed a follow up which Colin had every right to ignore - but he didn’t. He answered that, too, with remarkable good grace and patience. Then he drove off and I had a memory that will stay with me forever.

There are other great memories, like the time in Australia at the end of 2005 when Colin came desperately close to an unlikely podium for Skoda.

It sadly wasn’t to be and Colin retired early to the Irish bar across the road from rally HQ in Perth with wife Alison and a few friends.

By the time I got to the bar, fully kilted in preparation for the end of season dinner, Colin was a little merry. Seeing my kilt and recognising another true Scot, he came up to me and lifted my kilt - exposing me to the eyes of all and sundry!

And he was horrified! Fearing for my modesty amongst a predictably rowdy end of term WRC crowd, I turned my back on national tradition and put on my finest boxer shorts under my kilt. Apparently as I walked in, he bet one of his Aussie mates that I would be wearing my kilt as every Scot should, with nothing underneath.

He lost his bet and worse than that, he lost it to an Aussie. His revenge was to be swift and brutal. The boxers had to come off!

The Scot claimed his only world title in 1995

Colin positioned himself on one side of me, while Alison took up station on the other. Somehow my skean dhu, a small ceremonial knife worn with the kilt, was in Colin’s hand. I was hoisted aloft by my boxers.

The discomfort and embarrassment was extreme. But worse was to come. Colin put the skean dhu to good use, cutting off my best tartan boxer shorts.

He had his trophy, my now shredded boxers and my modesty, both left unceremoniously on the beer stained floor of O’Neills Irish Bar in Perth!

I always knew Colin was more than a bit unique. And he always will be.”

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