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Driving rules and regulations in the real world sadly prevent us from racing everywhere at breakneck speeds and performing hell-raising stunts and turns. Only professional rally and racing drivers can play out their wildest fantasy’s and satiate their lust for speed on the track or rally course. We watch them with envy as they dangerously accelerate around corners, fly over road bumps and career through all kinds of terrain in their finely tuned rally cars. From the tantalizing dessert races in Dakar, to the high-adrenaline rally championships, there is something inherently cool and exciting about this sport.
With victory in the Safari Rally in 2002, McRae made the record books as the driver with most event wins in the World Rally Championship. His record has since been broken by Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. McRae's contract with Ford came to an end following the 2002 season, and after reportedly asking for wages of five million pounds a year, Ford decided against renewing the contract, reluctant to commit such a high amount of their budget to a driver's salary. The two parties split on amicable terms, with Ford's European director of motorsport Martin Whitaker stating "On behalf of all of us at Ford Motor Company I would like to publicly thank Colin and Nicky for their efforts during the past four years with the Ford team. I wish them both well in the future." McRae said of his time with Ford "It's been a very successful four years, we've achieved a lot of very good results and I'm quite happy that myself and Ford have had a very successful partnership."
First- and second-generation Ford Escorts are some of the most popular vintage rally cars in Europe. They're eligible for import via the 25-year rule, which means people are starting to rally them on this side of the pond too. If you're looking for a good time on dirt, the Escort is the car for you. Here's an unrestored Mk1 model up for bidding now.
A "Celebration of Life" service took place at St Nicholas Church in Lanark on Sunday 30 September at 4 pm. Images from McRae's career and personal life were displayed on large video screens outside the church. Around 700 mourners filled the church, with crowds of up to 15,000 outside. Shortly before 4 pm, Martin Hewins, McRae's personal bagpiper for many years, played "Flower of Scotland" as the family arrived at the church. The service was conducted by the Rev Alison Meikle, who said "Two weeks ago Lanark was struck by silence. A terrible silence bought at an enormous price. However, in our tears love is stronger than death." Later, the Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton song "Islands in the Stream", a favourite of Johnny's, was played. Friends of the pair shared poems and anecdotes from the McRaes' lives. After the service, Colin McRae's widow, brother and father bowed and applauded the crowds who had gathered outside to pay tribute to the McRaes.
As public interest grew, car companies started to introduce special models or variants for rallying, such as the British Motor Corporation's highly successful Mini Cooper, introduced in 1962, and its successor the Mini Cooper S (1963), developed by the Cooper Car Company. Shortly after, Ford of Britain first hired Lotus to create a high-performance version of their Cortina family car, then in 1968 launched the Escort Twin Cam, one of the most successful rally cars of its era. Similarly, Abarth developed high performance versions of Fiats 124 roadster and 131 saloon.
Most of the works drivers of the 1950s were amateurs, paid little or nothing, reimbursed their expenses and given bonuses for winning (although there were certainly exceptions, such as the Grand Prix drivers who were brought in for some events). Then in 1960 came arguably the first rallying superstar (and one of the first to be paid to rally full-time), Sweden's Erik Carlsson, driving for Saab.