Stars remember McRae

Thirty. That’s how many World Rally Championship titles were in the room in San Marino at the weekend. And they were all there to remember one man: Colin McRae.

When the organisers of the annual Rallylegend event were looking for a theme, they decided to remember arguably the world’s greatest rally legend a decade on from his death.

McRae’s former team-mate, and two-time world champion co-driver to Carlos Sainz, Luis Moya is an ambassador for the event. He picked up the telephone.

“That’s all I did,” said Moya, grossly underestimating his input into an unforgettable and likely never-to-be-repeated event. “I called some drivers and, straight away, they said yes. OK, there were some who couldn’t make it and already had plans, but almost everybody came.”

They certainly did.

World champions Didier Auriol, Miki Biasion, Stig Blomqvist, Marcus Grönholm, Juha Kankkunen, Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier, Timo Salonen, Petter Solberg and Ari Vatanen lined up in the cars they’d driven in a championship-winning season for a non-competitive parade through the special stage known as The Legend.

Hans Thorszelius represented Björn Waldegård while Derek Ringer and Nicky Grist were on hand and on stage to talk about their driver Colin McRae.

A galaxy of world champions honoured Colin McRae

The biggest cheer was, however, saved for the McRae family, with Alister driving the Subaru Legacy RS brother Colin used on the 1992 Swedish Rally. Colin’s five-time British champion father Jimmy, mum Margaret and daughter Hollie were also at the three-day event.

Aside from the champions, Kris Meeke drove a Citroën Xsara WRC used by the Scot in 2003 and Thierry Neuville took part in a parade in a Hyundai i20 R5.

Neuville, who will battle Ogier for the title at this week’s Dayinsure Wales Rally GB (26 - 29 October), had no intention of driving and was only coming with friends to spectate.

“When I called the organisers to see if I could get some tickets, they asked if I would like to drive if they found me a car,” said Neuville. “Of course I would! It’s a fantastic event.”

Crowds close to 80,000 packed the narrow lanes and service park to witness what they realised would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like this again,” said Ogier, who was reunited with the Volkswagen Polo R WRC he used to clinch his fourth title last season. “To see all of these guys around here together again, I never saw anything like this – and to see them in the cars they won the championship, it’s incredible.”

Solberg echoed those sentiments. “This has been one special weekend, it’s been a real privilege to be involved and to share a room with so many heroes and champions. But the big thing is the family. To share a moment like this with the family is a real honour,” said the 2003 champion.

Pictures by Massimo Bettiol