- October 28, 1943
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
When we talk about McRae rally family, the most rewarded family in the history of British rallying, with eight national championship titles, the first person we think about is the 1995 world champion, Colin McRae. His brother Alister also has an impressive collection of WRC participations, with 76 starts between 1992 and 2012.
But, McRae brothers wouldn't become famous racers if they didn't inherit racing genes from their father Jimmy, who is also a rally driver and who won BRC title five times.
Jimmy McRae's rallying career lasts more than 40 years
Unfortunately, Colin lost his life in 2007 and Alister competed in only one event during 2016. Their father, the 73-year-old Jimmy McRae is currently the only active member of the McRae family, who is competing regularly in the British Historic Championship.
Jimmy McRae was born on October 28, 1943, in Lanark, Scotland. He developed a plumbing business in his home town and started to race relatively late, at the age of 31. His first rally cars in 1974 were Ford Cortina MkI and Ford Escort MkI, before he switched to Vauxhall Magnum Coupe in 1975.
WRC debut at 1976 Lombard RAC Rally
Magnum Coupe was his car in the WRC debut at the 1976 Lombard RAC Rally, with Ian Muir in the codriver's seat. Roger Clark won the race, and Jimmy and Ian finished 12th overall.
During 1977, McRae was driving Magnum for the Dealer Team Vauxhall (DTV) in the British and European Championship, sharing the car with David Brown and Ian Muir. McRae and Muir returned to Lombard RAC Rally in 1977 but retired from the race.
Collecting wins with Vauxhall Chevette
In 1978, DTV team switched to Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HS. With that car, McRae scored his first BRC podium, finishing second at Circuit of Ireland Rally. At the end of the season, he missed the title, finishing second behind Malcolm Wilson. At 1978 Lombard RAC event, he retired after an accident.
In 1979, McRae started to collect victories, still driving the Vauxhall Chevette but with new navigator Mike Nicholson. In 1980, McRae scored two wins in two Irish rounds of the European Rally Championship and some other wins in the Irish events, winning the Irish tarmac rally title.
Jimmy won two British rally titles with Opel Ascona 400
The first major title McRae has won in 1981, becoming the British Rally Champion, alongside his new co-driver Ian Grindrod. McRae's victorious car was the Opel Ascona 400. In the World Rally Championship, his only event was the Lombard RAC Rally and he retired again before the end.
In 1982, McRae repeated the BRC triumph with Opel Ascona 400, but what was more important was his entry to the Rothmans Opel Rally Team. His teammates were Walter Rohrl, Henri Toivonen and Ari Vatanen. Jimmy mostly competed in the European Rally Championship, winning four times and finishing as the runner-up behind Italian driver Antonio Fassina.
Opel Manta 400 was a victorious car in 1984
In the 1982 World Rally Championship, McRae participated for the first time in two events during one season. At the Acropolis Rally, he finished sixth and scored his maiden WRC points. At Lombard RAC Rally, he had no luck again and he retired because of a broken rear axle.
McRae remained a member of different Opel teams for three more seasons, winning his third BRC title in 1984, together with Mike Nicholson in the Opel Manta 400. Prior to that, in 1983, he reached his first WRC podium, finishing third in the 1983 Lombard RAC Rally with Rothmans Opel Team's Manta 400, behind two Audi Quattros. That podium pushed him to 15th place in the WRC standings, which was his career-best result.
One season with Group B monster MG Metro 6R4
The participation at 1985 Lombard RAC Rally with Opel Manta 400 for the Opel Euro Team, where he was sixth, was McRae's last event with Opel. In 1986, the last year of the Group B rally cars, McRae was driving one of those monsters, the MG Metro 6R4 for the Rothmans Rally Team.
He scored few podiums and one win (Ulster Rally) in the international and domestic events, finishing the season in 8th place at Lombard RAC Rally, as a member of the Austin Rover factory team.
Two more BRC titles for McRae and Ford
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth was McRae's next car. He took two consecutive British rally titles with that car, partnered by Ian Grindrod in 1987 and by Rob Arthur in 1988.
With five titles in total, Jimmy McRae became the most successful driver in the history of the British Rally Championship. In the next couple of years, both of his sons also became British champions, Colin two times (1991 and 1992), Alister once (1995).
One more WRC podium at Lombard RAC Rally
Jimmy was also successful in other competitions. He was fourth in the 1987 European Rally Championship (three wins) and sixth in the 1988 ERC (two wins). In November 1987, at Lombard RAC Rally, McRae scored his second WRC podium, finishing third behind Juha Kankkunen and Stig Blomqvist.
At the end of the 1988 season, McRae also tried Toyota, driving the Celica GT-4 for Toyota Team GB at two events, including Lombard RAC Rally. He retired in both events due to technical problems.
1989 - the last full-time season
The season of 1989 was Jimmy's last year with full-time participation in some competitions. He continued to drive Ford Sierra RS Cosworth in the British championship and finished third in the points.
In two WRC events with Ford, he was 12th in the UK and retired in New Zealand. He participated in one more WRC event, the 1989 Acropolis Rally, driving the Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, finishing fourth.
No retirement for Scottish racing legend
Although he retired from full-time racing in 1990, Jimmy McRae never stopped attending rally events. He was driving for pleasure, not for points. He was very competitive in the first couple of years of his retirement, winning some podiums with different cars (Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Opel Vectra 4x4) during 1990 and 1991.
In 1990, McRae tried something else besides rallying. He competed at the British Touring Car Championship. He was driving the BMW M3 for Ecosse Motorsport at Thruxton and Silverstone.
Five more WRC participations at Wales Rally GB
McRae was also a regular guest in the British round of the World Rally Championship. He participated in 1990 (Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, DNF), 1993 (VW Gold GTI, DNF), 1997 (Hyundai Accent, 32nd), 2003 (Subaru Impreza, 17th) and 2004 (Subaru Impreza, DNF).
Ever since he retired, he was occasionally active in the historic rally events. Since 2014, he expanded his activities, becoming the regular entrant in the British Historic Rally Championship, driving the Vauxhall Firenza all over the Europe, including the Wales Rally GB. For him, obviously, there is no retirement.