Activities to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Colin McRae becoming Britain’s first FIA World Rally Champion are gaining momentum, with a raft of special features planned for this month’s Wales Rally GB (November 12-15).
It was on the 1995 Network Q RAC Rally – the final round of the season – that McRae lifted the World Championship laurels, defeating Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz in a straight fight to become the youngest-ever title-winner.
The Scot was met by a rapturous reception when he reached the finishing ramp in Chester that year. Two decades on and just down the road in Deeside, his success will be feted once more as rallying fans and the WRC community unite to remember one of the most popular and spectacular drivers in the sport’s history.
Central to the celebrations will be an impressive two-tier structure in the Service Park, which will house four of McRae’s most legendary rally cars, two of which he piloted to victory on home turf – his 1995 and 1997 Subaru Imprezas, as well as a brace of Ford Focus RS WRCs.
Other attractions will include original race suits, pace notes, trophies and posters – some of which have never previously been seen in public – that have been supplied by Jimmy McRae, M-Sport, Prodrive, Derek Ringer and Nicky Grist amongst others.
The pièce de résistance, meanwhile, will be a bespoke multimedia show, utilising video footage, still photography and personal tributes to depict Colin’s remarkable career and his sensational achievements in all their glory. This special production – with commentary from David Coulthard – will be for sale at the event only as a limited edition tribute DVD priced at just £10.
Constructed by C6(n), the one-off display will be open to spectators throughout Wales Rally GB, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Two of Colin’s former co-drivers, Derek Ringer, who partnered McRae to his world title triumph back in 1995 in the iconic Subaru Impreza BAT 555 and Nicky Grist (who enjoyed 17 WRC victories alongside the Scot) will be in attendance all weekend, while Colin’s mother Margaret, wife Alison and daughter Hollie will also join in the celebrations.
Colin’s father Jimmy, himself a five-time British Rally Champion, will be contesting the Network Q WRGB National Rally in a mighty V8 Vauxhall Firenza Can-Am, but he will also flag away the first car from the official ceremonial start in Llandudno at 18:30 on Thursday, November 12.
That car will be a Group N Subaru WRX STI, driven by seven-time Rally America champion David Higgins from Trefeglwys and featuring an evocative throwback blue-and-yellow livery with classic gold wheels. Both men will appear in the pre-rally public autograph session earlier the same day, at 17:00 in Llandudno’s Venue Cymru.
“It does not seem 20 years ago that Margaret and I were at the finish in Chester celebrating Colin’s achievement,” reflected 72-year-old Jimmy. “The McRae family are humbled by the celebrations being organised in tribute to his memory.
“Colin was very popular in America and I am very pleased that Subaru America are making the trip to this year’s Wales Rally GB. This will also be very special for David, who was a good friend of Colin’s. It will be an emotional time but I will be focused on my own rally, driving those classic Welsh stages in the noisy V8 Firenza hoping to improve on last year’s finish.”
Higgins said: “There is definitely going to be a lot of emotion when people see the car – it is such a special livery. What we have here is a fantastic opportunity to remind people just how big Colin was and still is.
“It is also really important to remember how important Colin and Derek winning the World Championship was for British rallying. It put us on the map and helped give younger drivers an opportunity; I benefitted from their success and I’m sure British drivers are still benefitting now.”
The Deeside Service Park and Rally Village will be free to enter and will be open on Thursday (09:00 – 22:00), Friday (06:00 – 22:00), Saturday (05:00 – midnight) and Sunday (07:00 – 17:00).
There will be strictly no parking on-site or on any of the roads surrounding the Service Park and a complimentary park-and-ride scheme will operate throughout the event. Visitors should leave the A494 joining the A548 towards Deeside Industrial Park and follow yellow WRGB directional signage. Visitors are advised to tune into the event’s dedicated Wales Rally FM radio station on 87.7FM for the latest information.
With two British drivers to the fore, huge numbers are expected in the legendary Welsh forests next week. Tickets sales are ahead of last year, with many taking advantage of the advance ticket prices.
The four-day World Rally Pass is the all-inclusive ticket for fans. It provides access to all the individual Special Stages as well as Thursday’s pre-event Shakedown. It is priced at £99 for adults (or just £1 for accompanied children aged nine to 15) and comes with a desirable hard card and lanyard plus an event programme valued at £9.
Forest Passes offer a similar level of flexibility as the World Rally Pass but just for an individual day of the event. Again they include an official programme and can be purchased in advance for just £25 – a considerable saving on Single Stage tickets which will cost £30 on the day. Tickets for the family friendly RallyFest at Chirk Castle are available now for £25 with an even greater discount being offered to families. Full ticket information can be found on the WalesRallyGB.com website.
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