McRae, made his debut on the gruelling Dakar Rally Raid with Nissan in January 2004, and impressed the team by scoring two stage wins on his way to a memorable finish on the gruelling Sahara event. He returned to the Dakar in 2005 and was fastest on two of the first three stages in Morocco, before crashing out of the rally towards the end of stage six.
In August 2007, McRae claimed to still be working on finding a seat for the 2008 WRC season, stating that "if it doesn't happen next year, then I won't (return) because you can only be out of something at that level for so long."[21] In 2017, talking to Autosport podcast, David Richards confirmed that he and McRae had talked about McRae's comeback to Subaru for season 2008. Robert Reid was contacted by McRae who asked him to be his co-driver and the pair was due to test together, but unfortunately the test never happened because of McRae's fatal helicopter accident.[22]
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.