Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Tribute to Colin McRae – mimitig

Sunday 16th September.

I was really looking forward to a day of exceptional sporting choice and hopefully quality. Three international Twenty20 cricket matches to enjoy – including one involving England. A Formula One race at Spa – one of the very great racing circuits. MotoGP at Estoril – with a real chance of a fine race after all the testing Michelin had just done, and one more treat on the telly – a two hour review of the Tour of Britain, in which British road cyclists (especially the Manx Express – Mark Cavendish) had done extremely well.

Sadly, although all these events went ahead according to their broadcast paths, I found it hard to muster any enthusiasm for these, my favourite of sports.

I had woken in the small hours to hear a report on the news that a helicopter had crashed in Lanarkshire and it was confirmed that one of the dead was Colin McRae. It was one of those times when you don’t quite know if you’re really listening to a news report on the radio or if you’re having some deeply unpleasant nightmare.

I went back to sleep. When I resurfaced, there was no mention of a helicopter crash on the news – it was several hours before I heard that what I had suspected was indeed true and former World Rally Champion Colin McRae had indeed been killed, along with his young son Johnny, and the two other people on board. It was a horridly bizarre echo of Stevie Hislop’s death in the skies above Hawick on 30th July 2003.

While the deepest sympathy goes to Colin’s surviving family, his wife Alison, father Jimmy, fellow rally driving brother Alister, and close friends, all Colin’s fans are reeling with shock and grieving. His close friend, motor-cycle ace Valentino Rossi dedicated his win at Estoril today to Colin. I saw how moved Vale was before the race as he spoke of his friendship with the Scotsman, and I believe that he fought so hard for the win to honour Colin’s own fighting spirit. Rossi – normally the most ebullient of spirits was in tears on the podium.

Colin had droves of fans outside his own specialised world of rallying – in which he became Britain’s first World Rally Champion in 1995 after a thrilling final event decider with Subaru team mate Carlos Sainz on Rally GB. Although not to win another World Title, Colin held the record of 25 WRC wins until recently overtaken by Sebastian Loeb. He moved from Subaru to Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport (Ford) team and after wins at the Safari Rally (oft considered the toughest test of man and machine) and Portugal, only just missed out on a second World Title in 2001.

His next move to Citroen did not bring great rewards. Colin never really gelled with the French team – despite having spent the time and energy to become comfortable with the language. At the end of 2003, Colin effectively retired from the World Rally stage, though he took part in the Paris-Dakar rally. He then moved to sportscars and drove, with great credit at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

He made further occasional appearances at the WRC - and some strong performances with Skoda had led to his name being linked to a full return to the discipline for 2008.

But Colin was more than just a great of World Rallying. He was a keen and talented motor-cycle rider, a sports and saloon car driver, and had his go in single-seaters. With fellow Scot David Coulthard, he competed in the 2006 Race of Champions at the Stade de France, and was due to do so again at Wembley this winter. He also pioneered motor-sport in the world of computer games. The ground-breaking Colin McRae Rally was released by Codemasters in 1998 and has been updated and made available to all the latest platforms on a regular basis.

However, despite his global status and following, Colin always remained close to his Scottish rallying roots, and the last few years have seen him either as a competitive or supportive presence at even the smallest of rallies. I had the pleasure of meeting him, though very very briefly, in Cooper Park in Elgin as he walked around, signing autographs, chatting with the kids, and smiling a lot.

He was, and it is with pain that I write that word, a truly great ambassador for his sport, his country and a terrific example of how to conduct yourself in both victory and defeat. Tributes have poured in from his friends and colleagues. David Richards (who in an ironic postscript to this tribute, today walked away unhurt from a helicopter accident as he returned to Britain from the F1 race at Spa), Nicky Grist, Max Mosley, Jackie Stewart, Malcolm Wilson have all had warm and genuine things to say, but I leave you with the words of Colin’s mate David Coulthard:

“Why is it always the good guys it happens to?”

Colin McRae: 1968-2007


offsideintahiti said...

Courage, Mimi.

Un bisou de Tahiti.


MotM said...

What a thing to happen - and with two kids on board too.

Another Scottish speedster gone - RIP McRae

file said...

lovely obituary Mimi, thanks

RIP Colin, an exceptional man

nesta said...

Sweet. Philosophical. Warm. Thankyou.

bluedaddy said...

Sad enough that a well loved and respected sportsman, who clearly had more to give to motorsport, should die so unexpectedly. But heartbreaking and tragic that one of his sons and two others should die with him. My heart goes out to his poor family.

Thanks mimi for a worthy obituary.

mimi said...

Thank you all who have taken the time to read this, and thank you to Ebren for posting this so quickly. As he knows, I initially thought I would take some days to write properly about Colin, but then I realised that I needed to write from the heart, uninfluenced by other tributes. And believe you me, every Scottish front page, from the red-tops to The Scotsman, led on this story today.
At times, the heart leads the head, and I am sure that I have missed many of Colin's achievements. I simply wrote what I felt. There's much I could have said about his life, and maybe stuff I should have said, but I didn't want to paraphrase others.
This is my tribute. So may it be.

MotM said...

Mimi - Your comment only underlines what we got from the piece which is all the better for its emotion foregrounded and stats distanced. I scanned the Scottish papers on the net and the outpouring of grief for one of their own was clear.

39 - what kind of age is that?

Thanks again for a piece that, I'd like to think, could only appear here.

ervanp said...

Thank you for this piece mimitig.

Incredibly sad, and horribly ironic that such an excellent driver whose style was so dangerous and exciting died in a helicopter accident - from what i read he was a very careful pilot.

Even sadder is the fact that two kids lost their lives.


duncan said...

Well done Mimi. Exiled here in the neon Texas wilderness I had never heard of Mr McRae. After reading your splendid piece I feel like I knew him.

The presence of his son adds another dimension to the accident and my heart goes out to his poor wife and family.

On a happier note, nice to see my favorite Black Russian on here. Grettings exrvp!

tony said...

You can add me to the people who knew nothing about Colin, Mimi, but it is a lovely tribute.

I'm not very good with emotions, so if you think youtubing is inappropriate, ignore this. It's related to your final words..

mimi said...

tony: not at all inappropriate. bit gosh, for the first time about this, you make me cry.

Others have suggested that I should shed a tear, but I haven't until now.

That's a lovely song and story.


tony said...

I'm glad, Mimi. Only wish it could have been Marvin Gaye's version.

mimi said...

Why is it so much easier to emote with music than anything else? One feels embarrassed to be moved to tears by normal human emotion, but songs - by heck, there's always something to match the mood.

Lee said...


a wonderful piece, full of warmth, love and not a small amount of adoration, which is surely what all the greatest sportsmen are all about.

It is hard not to be introspective when such things happen, particularly as I have son who is five. The idea of leaving my wife without her husband and son is so awful it makes my heart splinter at the thought. I will light a candle for those left behind.

RIP Colin

tcat said...

First in days I have had the opportunity to read this. It would be well placed in the Obit in The Times. A wonderful piece fit for a wonderful man and great ambassador for his sport.

Tweet it, digg it