20th anniversary of Colin McRae's world title
At 71st Wales Rally GB, the last round of 2015 World Rally Championship, all rally fans are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Colin McRae’s first and only world title, which was scored on the same place back in 1995. Although he won only one world championship, McRae became one of the world’s most popular rally drivers ever. 1995 WRC season was one of the most controversial and most exciting championships, with lots of notable events and the title fight decided at last rally.
It was 51st Network Q RAC Rally, held from 19th to 22nd November. Colin McRae, co-driven by Derek Ringer in Subaru Impreza 555, won the rally, ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz. This victory was decisive and McRae took the title with five points gap over Sainz.
But, let see from the beginning what was happened during the year and why it was a controversial season. Compared to previous year, FIA ordered the reduction of the diameter of the mandatory turbo restrictor from 38mm to 34mm. They wanted to slow down an improvement of the rally cars.
The season consisted of 8 rallies (Monte-Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, France, New Zealand, Australia, Catalunya and Great Britain). On the penultimate round of the championship, at Rally Catalunya, Toyota was caught to use illegal turbo restrictors. FIA disqualified the team not only from Rally Catalunya but also erased all the results and championship points of Toyota’s drivers Didier Auriol, Juha Kankkunen, Armin Schwarz and Thomas Radström. Until Spanish event Juha Kankkunen had been in championship lead, after his disqualification only McRae and Sainz remained in the game and they came the last rally with equal points.
Season started bad for McRae, because he retired at 63rd Rallye Monte-Carlo. He slid of the road at famous Sisteron stage. His team-mate Sainz has won the rally, ahead Francois Delecour (Ford Escort RS Cosworth) and Juha Kankkunen (Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205).
At 44th Swedish Rally both McRae and Sainz retired due to engine failure. Scandinavians dominated on the snow, so Kenneth Eriksson and Tommi Mäkinen scored 1-2 victory for Mitsubishi, while Toyota’s Thomas Radström completed the podium. Juha Kankkunen was fourth, ahead team-mate and reigning world champion Didier Auriol.
At 29th TAP Rallye Portugal Carlos Sainz again was victorious, ahead Kankkunen and McRae. At 39th Tour de Corse – Rallye de France two French drivers took the first two places – Didier Auriol and Francois Deelcour. Mitsubishi’s Andrea Aghini completed the podium, ahead of Sainz and McRae. Kankkunen finished 10th.
In the absence of 1000 Lakes Rally from the series, 25th Smokefree Rally New Zealand had the fastest stages during the year. Colin McRae scored his 4th career victory, ahead of three Toyota drivers Auriol, Kankkunen and Schwarz. Carlos Sainz was absent following a mountain bike accident in which he injured his right shoulder.
Drama was continued at the next event – 8th Telstra Rally Australia. Sainz holed the radiator of Impreza and retired on the first day. McRae defended the honor of Subaru and finished 2nd, behind Eriksson (Mitsubishi) and ahead Kankkunen (Toyota). Kankkunen took the lead in the championship, but more important is that McRae had five points more than Sainz.
Than the controversial 31st Rally Catalunya followed. It was controversial not only because of Toyota’s rules infringement but also because of Subaru Team’s orders which handed the win to Carlos Sainz. He was trailing McRae until team chead David Lapworth ordered the Scotsman to slow down and allow Sainz to win. The idea was to keep Sainz in the team, but the biggest irony is that the day after the Spaniard signed for Toyota.
Sainz and McRae were tied in the drivers’ classification ahead of last rally, while Subaru World Rally Team had two points less than Mitsubishi in the manufacturers’ standings. McRae was robbed in Spain but justice has been served at his home event, where he won with 36 seconds ahead of Sainz, despite losing time with mechanical difficulties that at one stage had put him two minutes behind.
Subaru took manufacturer’s title and McRae became Britain’s first and in that time the youngest ever World Rally Champion. He overcame bad start of the season and beat the team orders to take his only crown, but that one crown was enough to became a legend.