Rallying became very popular in Sweden and Finland in the 1950s, thanks in part to the invention there of the specialsträcka (Swedish) or erikoiskoe (Finnish), or special stage: shorter sections of route, usually on minor or private roads—predominantly gravel in these countries—away from habitation and traffic, which were separately timed. These at long last provided the solution to the conflict inherent in the notion of driving as fast as possible on ordinary roads. The idea spread to other countries, albeit more slowly to the most demanding events.
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.
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.
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.
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On 5 August 2006, McRae competed for Subaru in the first live televised American rally in Los Angeles as part of the X-Games. McRae rolled the car on the penultimate corner after landing awkwardly from a jump, which damaged the front bumper and left front tyre. Despite this, McRae kept the car running and continued on to the finish, his time only 0.13 seconds slower than eventual winner Travis Pastrana. McRae was, though, to have one more opportunity at world championship level: he was unexpectedly entered for his final rally by semi-works Kronos Citroën at Rally Turkey in September, where he replaced Sébastien Loeb while the Frenchman recovered from an injury he sustained in a cycling accident immediately prior to the event. A final-stage alternator problem consigned him and returning co-driver Nicky Grist, to a final placing outside the top ten.