How do you commemorate a worldwide sporting icon? It’s a tricky proposition, writes Luke Barry.
Last weekend, Coltness Car Club tackled just that. Except they didn’t tackle it; they smashed it, aced it, and got it absolutely spot on. They did their former member proud.
Friday 15 September 2017 marked the ten year anniversary since 1995 World Rally Champion Colin McRae’s lost his life. The motorsport world came together to remember the Scotsman with fantastic memories and tribute pieces, including one right here on ENRG Sport. But nothing resonates more in the mind when thinking about Colin McRae than a rally car blasting through a forest a lot faster than it should.
The destination; Craigvinean Forest, Perth & Kinross. The great and the good of Scottish rallying descended upon Dunkeld on Saturday 23 September for the McRae Gravel Challenge. Fifty cars; thirty stage miles; four stages. Except this wasn’t really about the competition.
Merely running a rally in these forests was an achievement in itself for the organising team. With the costs to hire and repair the forest roads reaching new highs and an ongoing FAI surrounding UK rallying, the sport is facing an uncomfortable future. So much so that the Colin McRae Forest Stages, a round of the Scottish Rally Championship, was forced into cancellation in 2015. This just seven years on from the spectacular 2008 event that saw World Champions test their mettle between the trees in memory of Colin.
Quintin Milne, who embodies the spirit of McRae in his own driving, was a large driving force behind getting the McRae Gravel Challenge to run.
“I just harassed many spirited rally fans or friends who had the sport in their heart,” Milne explains. “Sometimes you just need to say it straight rather than mince your words. It wasn’t hard to convince any financial backers to come onboard, and I am grateful to everybody who was involved and managed to help out, especially Blackwood Plant Hire.”
Milne was the perfect keystone to this event’s success. He has the following and the charm to get everybody together, and was very close to McRae when he was growing up.
“It was great to get this event back on the calendar for a guy who took me into his junior team alongside Kris Meeke, who not only gave me driving tips but treated me like a big brother,” he said.
“Colin took me out on many test sessions and even a night out in Finland when I was just a teenager. I will never know a more down to earth hero than Colin McRae.”
On the event himself, Milne was driving a car McRae very nearly did in the World Championship: the 2008 Subaru Impreza WRC. Backed by Rig Deluge and with Sean Donnelly in the co-driver’s seat, it was a baptism of fire for the Banchory based driver.
Milne was pleased with his performance: “After a year out of driving a four wheel drive car we were only a second a mile down on a multiple Scottish and British champion who practices in his car a lot, so that felt great!
“We were learning in the car with every stage. If we get out next year I know we’ll be in contention for podium places so I am happy with that as a rusty, old ‘has been’!” He joked.
One second ahead at the end of the event were Andrew Gallacher and Jane Nicol, who came home in second place. At the wheel of another car synonymous with McRae, the Ford Focus WRC, the duo picked up from where they left off on the Galloway Hills Rally where they took seventh overall on their first rally together in 12 months.
The event was won by David Bogie and Damien Connolly in a Skoda Fabia R5. Quite comfortably in all honesty, with the five time Scottish and 2011 British Rally Champion winning each of the four stages to finish over a minute up the road. With all the flamboyance and sideways antics of others, Bogie represented McRae’s sheer speed, blowing his opposition away in what he described as a great test for next month’s Wales Rally GB in the World Championship.
However, the final words must go to Mr Milne, who echoed everybody’s thoughts on the day.
“Thank you to all the marshals, organisers and rally fans who made an appearance that had an impact and made it happen, you are fondly held close to my chest! People loved the format and the stages are as good as you’ll find anywhere in Scotland.”