- January 17, 1971
- November 25, 2005
- United Kingdom
- Not Active
- Subaru WRT,Peugeot Total,Mitsubishi Ralliart
British rally driver and 2001 World Rally Champion Richard Burns is one of just three WRC title holders who are no longer alive. He died on 25th November 2005 at the age of 34, after two years of fighting against malignant brain tumor. Burns was second British driver, after Colin McRae, who won the World Rally Championship, but he was and still is the only Englishman who did that.
Richard's first rally car was Talbot Sunbeam
Richard Alexander Burns was born on January 17th, 1971 in Reading, Berkshire. He started racing very early and as a 13-year-old boy he had already become the driver of the year in the Under 17 Car Club. At 15, he attended his first rally school and by the time he was 17 he had entered his first rallies in his own Talbot Sunbeam.
In those days, rally enthusiast David Williams spotted Richard's talent and became his mentor. Williams bought a Peugeot 205 GTI to Burns and he entered the Peugeot Challenge.
WRC debut with Peugeot 309 GTI
Burns won the competition and his prize was participation in the Lombard RAC Rally, which was the last round of 1990 World Rally Championship. He drove the Peugeot 309 GTI and finished 28th overall.
The 309 GTI was the car he continued to use in 1991 in some rounds of the European Rally Championship and again in the British round of WRC. That year, Burns met Robert Reid, who was to become his co-driver for the next 12 years, until the end of his career.
The youngest ever British rally champion
For 1992, Williams bought Burns a Group N Subaru Legacy and with the support of Prodrive he won the National Championship. In 1993, he joined the Subaru Rally Team for the British Rally Championship alongside Alister McRae, driving a Subaru Legacy. He won four rounds and became the youngest ever British Champion. He finished seventh in that year's snowy RAC Rally.
In 1994, when Subaru introduced the famous Impreza 555, Burns remained a member of the Subaru World Rally Team and he shifted his focus to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. After seven rallies he finished third in the APR championship. He competed in the RAC Rally but retired.
Member of the historic 1995 Subaru team
In 1995, he was the third driver in Subaru's championship winning line-up, together with Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz. His best result was to come third on the RAC Rally, in an historic event in which Colin McRae won his only world title.
In 1996, Burns joined the Mitsubishi Ralliart and competed in four WRC events alongside Tommi Makinen. Burns won at the Rally New Zealand, which was a fixture within the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. In 1997, Burns' WRC programme was expanded to eight rallies and he finished 7th in the championship. He scored his first WRC podium with 2nd place in Kenya's Safari Rally.
Maiden WRC win at 1998 Safari Rally
A year later, he finally scored his first WRC victory at the 1998 Safari Rally. He added his career's second victory in that year's Rally GB. It was the event in which Toyota's Carlos Sainz retired 500m from the finish line and lost the title. Burns' team-mate Tommi Makinen became the championship and Mitsubishi took the manufacturers' title.
Two seasons as a WRC runner-up
In 1999, Burns returned to the Subaru World Rally Team, which was run by Prodrive under David Richards. Burns joined older team-mates Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry, but soon became no.1 factory driver, not only by status but also with results. Burns scored three victories and finished 2nd in the championship, behind Makinen.
He was a long-time contender for the title in 2000, but crashed out in the Rally Finland in mid-season handing the momentum to the eventual champion Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot). With four victories, Burns finished 2nd in the championship again.
World champion with only one season's victory
The 2001 rally season began without points for Burns at two opening events –Rallye Monte Carlo and Swedish Rally. In a 14-event season, Burns scored only one victory (New Zealand) but his consistency and five podiums made him one of four championship contenders before the last round of the series in Great Britain.
All three of Burns' rivals (McRae, Makinen and Sainz) retired during the second day of the rally and for him a third place finish was enough to take the title. He became the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship.
Contributing to Peugeot's world title
The victory at the 2001 Rally New Zealand was his last WRC triumph, because in the next two seasons with Peugeot, his best results were five podiums in 2002 and seven podiums in 2003. In 2002, Burns contributed to Peugeot's manufacturers' title, with fifth place in the drivers' classification.
In the 2003 season, he dominated the championship, although without wins. He decided to leave Peugeot at the end of the season and to rejoin Subaru in 2004. Unfortunately his career unexpectedly was stopped in November 2003, during his trip to the season-ending Wales Rally GB, still with a chance of winning the title. Burns suffered a blackout while driving with Ford driver Markko Märtin to the rally. He was withdrawn from the event and was later diagnosed with an astrocytoma, a type of malignant brain tumour.
Richard was an inspiration to many
Medical treatment during 2004 was followed by surgery in April 2005. Unfortunately, half a year later he passed away, on Friday November 25th. A memorial service for Burns was held at St Luke's Church, Chelsea on December 22nd, with readings from TV personalities Jeremy Clarkson and Steve Rider and a tribute paid by one of Burns' closest friends, photographer Colin McMaster.
Richard’s strength and determination throughout his illness was an inspiration to those who knew and worked with him. He faced his disease with the same attitude that he displayed on the world’s rally stages, showing bravery and intelligence.
Richard Burns Foundation since 2006
So, in 2006 a charity was founded, named RB Foundation, by some of his closest friends and colleagues as a lasting tribute to his memory. It aims to help people who are affected by a serious illness or injury. It is also there to recognise the people who display the same fortitude as Richard during their individual ordeals, giving them the means to face the future with confidence.
In 2007, Subaru released a special edition Impreza WRX STI, the RB320, in memory of Burns. That wasn't the first car with Burns' name; in 2001 to commemorate the title's success, Subaru produced a special edition of the Subaru Impreza in the UK called the RB5. There was also a racing video game called Richard Burns Rally (RBR), which was released in July 2004 for various gaming consoles and PCs. Richard was the adviser during development of the game and it soon spread across the globe.