Colin McRae, Legend.

On Saturday the 15th of September 2007 the Motorsportworld, gaming world and world in general were left stunned and shocked by the tragic death of world famous rally driver Colin McRae along with his son and family friends.  They all died as a result of a helicopter accident near Colin’s Lanarkshire home and came as a major blow to those who knew and loved him, most people had thought that if a life was lost it would have been as part of the sport of rallying, not in leisure time.  It is very hard to put into words the impact of this event, it really was like dropping a stone into a still pond and watching the ripples spread out to the fringes of the pond.  As I sit writing this, Lanark, where Colin stayed, is about fifteen miles away and sits at the head of the Clyde Valley. It’s not a large area but there is always a feeling of admiration when a local boy does good and that is exactly how Lanarkshire regarded Colin McRae.  He had won the World Rally Championship in 1995 and further cemented Scotland’s standing as a major contender in the motorsport world, you felt that you could just meet him in the street and talk to him, I believe that was exactly the case and he was widely regarded as a genuinely nice person.

Colin McRae

It was only a natural progression that a game would be made with Colin’s endorsement and in 1998 Codemasters released the first “Colin McRae Rally”.  I must confess when I played it I found it exceedingly difficult, having come from the arcade-ness of Sega Rally, and let it pass me over.  I had friends who raved about it, but I just didn’t see it.  In 2000 version 2.0 was released and started my love affair with the series. I found it to be more accessible and pretty soon I was a rally master.  It wasn’t until the release of Colin McRae 3 that the game really hit its stride though, I got the game on the Xbox and it was amazing. The graphics were awesome, the controls tight and I could compare my times against others.  I still have fond memories of the Ford Focus tanning down a snow covered track, its aerial bobbing around at every turn.  I played one stage, Mellsonby England , over and over until I thought I had nailed it my time was 2:45mins, unbeatable I thought, sadly I checked the leaderboards and I  was a full thirty seconds behind the leader…gutted!  Last year we were introduced to Colin McRae DIRT, still by Codemasters, and promising the most realistic rally experience ever and it wasn’t far off the mark.  The rallying section looked and played phenomenally well but there were also additions of different off-road vehicles, which maybe took away from the core of the previous games, but were still hugely enjoyable.  However there was one thing missing from the game…Colin!  In an attempt to take in a wider audience US motocross star Travis Pastrana was roped in to do all the voice acting in game, this was due to the fact that he and Colin had recently teamed up very successfully in the X-Games, with Colin wowing the US audience.  That aside, the game was huge and did indeed bring in new admirers to the sport and Colin also.  It has long been rumoured that there will be some kind of Legendary edition of the series but as of yet nothing has been announced, I think it would be a fitting tribute to a person who was admired as much as Colin was.

Everyone has stories to tell, some true and some not. Mine is true and was the closest I ever came to meeting Colin McRae, when I think about it I cringe but I’m going to tell you all anyway.  I was driving through Glasgow one day, coming along beside the River Clyde, in front of me the lights changed to red and the BMW with foreign number plates stopped, I pulled up along side it.  Waiting for the lights to change I looked around and saw Colin and his wife in the BMW, Colin driving.  My mind went blurry but some options came to mind, it was like a nervous multiple choice,

  1. Pretend you haven’t seen him and go about your business.
  2. Attract his attention and give the thumbs up and an understanding nod.
  3. Toot the horn, motion to wind down the window and spout some nonsense.
  4. Get out the car, go to his car, knock the window and put the fear of god into him.
  5. Put the car into first gear, wait for first glimmer of amber and beat Colin McRae off the mark.

Of course I went for option 5!  My heart started beating faster, my palms became sweaty, a quick glance round and Colin wasn’t aware of my existence, he was busy chatting to his wife.  My foot was balanced on the clutch, the accelerator was slightly depressed, my eyes were fixed on the traffic lights…the red light extinguished in slow motion, the amber started to brighten, I pushed down on the accelerator and lifted the clutch, the engine roared and…I stalled it!  Colin proceeded at a leisurely pace as I sat motionless and highly embarrassed, quickly I started the car again and booted it, I must have passed Colin at Warp Factor 5, fully knowing that he didn’t care, and you know  I didn’t care about what had happened, I had just been head to head with Colin McRae!

A fans tribute to Colin

It really is very hard to fully put into words how well regarded Colin was, a memorial service in his home town of Lanark last year attracted over 4000 people who turned up to pay tribute to a local hero.  On the 31st of August Colin’s father, Jimmy, lead a convoy of Subaru Imprezas from Lanark to Banbury as a tribute by the Subaru Impreza Owners Club and Prodrive, with money being raised for charities.  This was also a world record for the most cars of one make in a convoy, they also gathered to spell out Colin’s name on the tarmac for another world record.  It was called the McRae gathering, 1086 Subarus (with drivers) took part. It just shows the feelings people have for a true legend like Colin.  Colin was a rare person in his appeal across the board, not only was he known for his sporting achievements but the games are also widely regarded as being the beat rally games around, each facet was enjoyed by all.  Games fans were introduced to rallying through the games and rally fans were introduced to the games through his name and success, not even Tiger Woods can emulate that kind of impact.

It says Colin McRae

Colin was a sportsman, a husband, a father and a son.  He was a son of Scotland, a nation fervently proud of their heritage, he gave us cause for much smugness.  He managed to cross into so many areas Le Mans, Paris Dakar Rally, X-Games, Video Games, etc.  He raced in a formula one car, MotoGP bike and posted amazingly quick times, he was a born natural who had a love for speed and a passion for winning.  He has left behind a legacy which few will ever manage to emulate but sadly as well with his passing he has left a large hole both in hearts and in lives.  My copy of DIRT will never be traded in, my memories of him will never fade, even though I made a fool of myself!  Colin McRae, legend, gone but never, ever forgotten.  I’m sure everyone at Ready-Up! will join with me in offering heartfelt condolences and best wishes to his family and friends at this time, one year on, may peace be with you all.


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10 responses to “Colin McRae, Legend.”

  1. Kirsten avatar

    There’s something about having played the games makes us gamers acutely feel the loss. Through the McRae games we’ve all raced alongside the man. When I think of him today that’s how I’ll remember him.

  2. Dan avatar

    The Colin McRae games got me watching Rally on TV, no question there. It would be nice if Codemasters launched a special edition for one of the many good causes he supported.

  3. Michael avatar

    Bertie Fisher (who lived about ten miles from me and was, rather eerily, also killed in a helicopter crash) was our equivalent of Colin McRae. He was a really nice guy as well.

    Nice tribute Martin.

  4. Claire avatar
    Claire

    Words escape me, as they did on the day of his accident and untimely death.

    Lovely tribute Martin, thank you.

  5. Dave avatar
    Dave

    Excellent post man. It is incredible how these games got people interested in Rally driving. The first game was simply awesome, I remember it being a tad nails though (I was used to Gran Turismo style driving at this stage) but all the way up to DiRT the games were superb.

    Colin’s death really is a massive loss to the country and the sport. In terms of gaming, the series never put a foot wrong and in my opinion, this is more than can be said for its peers.

  6. Prozackius/Dave K avatar
    Prozackius/Dave K

    Nice words mate. I remember him twatting by us just up the the road from where you used to live. 100 MpH on the Strathaven to Nowhere back road.

  7. Martin avatar

    Thank you for all your comments, this was without a doubt the hardest blog I have ever written, I found myself getting quite emotional writing the last paragraph. It’s good that the memory of a great man can be remembered through the medium of video games.
    A special thank you to “Uncle” Tom Russell on Rock Radio for giving us a mention, cheers Tom keep on rocking with the beard of doom!

  8. Chris avatar

    Great blog Martin, you’ve given a fantastic tribute. I knew Colin from working in Lanark for a number of years and he was a really nice guy. Very genuine, very popular. His success hadn’t changed him though and he was still one of the locals.

    Thank you for your kind words

  9. simon avatar
    simon

    fanstic tribute martin as a lot of respect to and have worked for colin on and off over the years in prodrive banbury and time spent there i will never forget this at all i hope that people will rember that what he says that IN DOUBT FLAT OUT but please rember not to use this on the roads as i have seen scooby drivers doing this so all people please repspect he would probaly say this as well. thanks simon

  10. Alister McRae avatar
    Alister McRae

    A big thank you to you all for your kind words. It is very comforting to myself and my family to know how highly people thought of Colin.
    We continue to celebrate his life as well as Johnny’s, Ben’s and Grahame’s

    Thanks
    Alister

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