The RAC Rally had formally become an International event in 1951, but Britain's laws precluded the closure of public highways for special stages. This meant it had to rely on short manoeuvrability tests, regularity sections and night map-reading navigation to find a winner, which made it unattractive to foreign crews. In 1961, Jack Kemsley was able to persuade the Forestry Commission to open their many hundreds of miles of well surfaced and sinuous gravel roads, and the event was transformed into one of the most demanding and popular in the calendar, by 1983 having over 600 miles (970 km) of stage. It is now called Rally GB.
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McRae's outstanding performance with the Subaru World Rally Team enabled the team to win the World Rally Championship Constructors' title three times in succession in 1995, 1996 and 1997. After a four-year spell with the Ford Motor Co. team, which saw McRae win nine events, he moved to Citroën World Rally Team in 2003 where, despite not winning an event, he helped them win the first of their three consecutive manufacturers' titles. He was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to motorsport in 1996.
Colin Steele McRae, MBE (5 August 1968 – 15 September 2007) was a British rally driver from Lanark, Scotland. The son of five-time British Rally Champion Jimmy McRae and brother of rally driver Alister McRae, Colin McRae was the 1991 and 1992 British Rally Champion and, in 1995 became the first British person and the youngest to win the World Rally Championship Drivers' title, a record he still holds.
Since then, the nature of the events themselves has evolved relatively slowly. The increasing costs, both of organization and of competing, as well as safety concerns, have, over the last twenty years, brought progressively shorter rallies, shorter stages and the elimination of nighttime running, scornfully referred to as "office hours rallying" by older hands. Some of the older international events have gone, replaced by others from a much wider spread of countries around the world, until today rallying is truly a worldwide sport. At the same time, fields have shrunk dramatically, as the amateur in his near-standard car is squeezed out.
In many rallies, including those of the World Rally Championship (WRC), drivers are allowed to run on the stages of the course before competition and create their own pacenotes. This process is called reconnaissance or recce. During reconnaissance, the co-driver writes down shorthand notes (the pacenotes) on how to best drive the stage. Usually the drivers call out the turns and road conditions for the co-drivers to write down. These pacenotes are read aloud through an internal intercom system during the actual race, allowing the driver to anticipate the upcoming terrain and thus take the course as fast as possible.
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.
In the 1960s, the competitions manager of BMC, Stuart Turner, hired a series of brave and gifted young Finns, skills honed on their country's highly competitive gravel or snow rallies, and the modern professional driver was born. As special stage rallying spread around the world Scandinavian drivers were challenged by drivers from Italy, Germany, Britain, Spain and elsewhere. Today, a World Champion may be of any nationality.
In 1979, a young Frenchman, Thierry Sabine, founded an institution when he organised the first "rallye-raid" from Paris to Dakar, in Senegal, the event now called the Dakar Rally. From amateur beginnings it quickly became a massive commercial circus catering for cars, motorcycles and trucks, and spawned other similar events. Since 2008, it has been held in South America.
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.
In Africa, 1950 saw the first French-run Méditerranée-le Cap, a 10,000-mile (16,000 km) rally from the Mediterranean to South Africa; it was run on and off until 1961, when the new political situation hastened its demise. In 1953 East Africa saw the demanding Coronation Safari, which went on to become the Safari Rally and a World Championship round, to be followed in due course by the Rallye du Maroc and the Rallye Côte d'Ivoire. Australia's Redex Round Australia Trial also dates from 1953, although this remained isolated from the rest of the rallying world.
While Ferrari built race cars before Enzo Ferrari ever considered making a street car, they're not typically seen sliding around on dirt. That wrong was righted with the Ferrari 308, which was homologated for rally in Group 4 and Group B classes. Why watch Magnum P.I. reruns when you can scour YouTube for videos of 308 rally cars tearing up dirt stages, flat-plane V-8s wailing? Fantastic.
This particular era was not to last. On the 1986 Rallye de Portugal, four spectators were killed; then in May, on the Tour de Corse, Henri Toivonen went over the edge of a mountain road and was incinerated in the fireball that followed. FISA immediately changed the rules again: rallying after 1987 would be in Group A cars, closer to the production model. One notably successful car during this period was the Lancia Delta Integrale, dominating world rallying during 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992 – winning six consecutive world rally championships, a feat yet unbeaten.