"He just never lifted his foot"

When he was still cutting his teeth on the Scottish club scene, Colin made an impression on those who watched him 

Colin McRae in 1989

Even as a teenager, McRae’s talent shone through and many who saw his early drives believed he was destined for the top.

Ian Gemmell was running Kames, the club in Ayrshire close to where Colin cut his teeth at the time and said: “Right from the start he stood out. He came down to Kames with his father, Jimmy.

“There is a small area down by an Armco barrier and up a wee side road. Jimmy went around and showed him how to hold the car and steady it. He was not going fast, but Colin just jumped in the car and did it first time. No bother.Two years later Jimmy brought Alister down and showed him the same thing. Alister tried and tried. It took him ages to perfect it. That was the difference between them.

“You gave Colin a car and he said ‘Right, I’ll drive it’ – anything with four wheels and an engine. He was fearless on a motorbike, too.

“When he sold the Vauxhall Nova with which he won the Scottish title, one of Colin’s mechanics said to me ‘The guy that bought it thinks he has got a very special car. There is only one special thing – and that was Colin’. He just never lifted his foot.

“I do a lot of driver training. You could always pick them out within the first two or three minutes. You knew the ones who had it and the ones who would struggle to do it. Alister is a good driver who has won a number of events, but he wasn’t a natural like Colin.”

McRae’s first rally was on the Kames Stages, Ayrshire, in 1985. He borrowed a Talbot Avenger from Davie Burdon, after agreeing to put a gearbox in it, and came 14th. East Ayrshire Car Club historian Robert Smith says Colin appreciated that early support and came to many charity nights as a ‘thank you’.

“Colin had his first rally at our track in Kames and showed great promise. We saw from that first day how confident he was. Like his father, he was interested in bikes, scrambling and trials, but rallying was the natural place to go and his talent stood out right from the word go.

“Even then you could see he was aggressive. As he progressed, he had a few accidents because of that aggression. When he controlled that, he started to be successful.” Jon Doran