Today marks the 9-year anniversary of the death of the critically acclaimed rally driver Colin McRae. His "win-it-or-bin-it" driving style earned the hearts of rally fans worldwide. His multiple British Rally championship wins, Word Rally Drivers championship wins and being Britain's first ever World Rally Champion only further cemented his legacy as one of the word's finest rally drivers.
His rise to fame in the 1990's also helped bring attention to the Subaru brand, as his time behind the wheel of a Subaru Legacy, as well as the infamous 555 Impreza allowed him to dominate for several years. Colin would go on to drive Fords and Citroëns later in his career, but the name McRae and Subaru would forever have a special bond with fans.
To a lot of people, Colin's driving is what really put the sport of rally on the map, and gave people a real reason to watch the sport. While people can debate where he ranks as one of the greatest rally drivers ever, nobody would argue with you that every time he get in his car, it was guaranteed to be a spectacle. With Colin, you never knew what to expect, other than sensational driving and the occasional crash (which there were many). Even after a serious crash in the 1992 1000 Lakes Rally where Colin rolled the car multiple times, he was never out of it. If the car could still run, McRae was still going to drive it:
Colin would never let an injury to himself or his car ever slow him down, as his dedication to win was unfathomable. In 2000 he would have one of the most devastating crashes of his career, fracturing his cheekbone and bruising his ribs after hitting a tree at the Tour de Corse Rally. After needing to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, he would get back in the car less than a month later and place 6th in his next event. In 2002 at Rally de Catalunya, he was injured again in his car after another crash, and was prepared to amputate one of his pinky fingers rather than give up the fight for his second World Rally Championship title.
Another example of this skill and willingness to win at all costs couldn't be more apparent than Colin's trip to the 2006 X-Games for the sport's first ever RallyCross event. Going up against Travis Pastrana in a similar rally spec STi, McRae roared into the stadium on his final lap with a legitimate chance to claim a gold medal. Going over the final jump, however, McRae rolled his car, dislodged the front bumper but landed on all four wheels. He set off again, bumper still mangled and crossed the line less than a second behind Pastrana’s time to claim a silver medal:
Pastrana's reaction in this video is truly genuine, and it mirrors everyone else that was watching Colin on TV, and in the stadium on that day. While Pastrana may have won the gold, it was Colin that won the hearts of all the fans.
Outside of rallying, Colin was an avid helicopter pilot, and owned his own that he would occasionally fly. While he faced certain death every time he was behind the wheel of a car, it was a helicopter crash that resulted in his untimely death. McRae's five-year-old son Johnny, and two family friends, Graeme Duncan and Johnny's six-year-old friend Ben Porcelli, also died in the crash. It was later determined that McRae had not undertaken a yearly competency check as required by the CAA, and therefore may not have been deemed fit to fly.
Colin lived by the motto, "If in doubt, flat out", and while that applies to his driving style and how he would navigate a car around on dirt roads, it also could be the best way to describe the way that he lived his life. A fierce competitor, and a truly genuine person, Colin will continue to be deeply missed by the entire rally community for his passion for the sport, and his passion to be the best human being that he could be too.
May he rest in peace.