Right now the cars competing in the 2015 Wales Rally GB are probably somewhere around Special Stage 3. But on this Friday Photo we’re looking back to the final round of the World Rally Championship two decades ago.
Back in 1995 rallying was teetering on the edges of still being an endurance motorsport, with the Network Q RAC Rally covering some 317 competitive stage miles that year. It followed a route that ran from Chester, to Leeds, up into the Scottish Borders and then back down to Wales; a total distance of almost 1,500 miles across four days. Compare that to the 192 stage miles that the Wales Rally GB will cover this year.
More importantly, the 1995 RAC Rally saw Colin McRae battle teammate Carlos Sainz to take victory and with it claim the World Rally Championship. It was the only time McRae would ever win the title, although he would finish runner-up on three other occasions. But it wasn’t just winning the Championship, but doing it in the UK, in a straight fight with twice World Champion Sainz that made it even more special. Throughout his career McRae was susceptible to throwing away victories from pushing too hard but, somehow, he managed not to that year.
Looking at the above picture, it’s incredible how much the sport has changed in the past twenty years. Tobacco sponsorship, the Network Q RAC Rally name, standard-looking four-door saloons, even the Subaru World Rally Team, have all disappeared from rallying. Whilst you can’t play down the success of Volkswagen and Citroen in recent years, their victories seem somehow less iconic than that of a blue and yellow Subaru or red and white Mitsubishi. Something probably not helped by the lack of TV exposure; back in 1995 even the BBC still covered rallying.
Watching footage now, compared to the snippets of action seen in the modern WRC, tells the story of just how difficult and arduous a task the RAC Rally was. The cars move around so much more, with huge controlled drifts being the rule rather than the exception. Some things don’t change, however, such as Tony Mason’s flat cap or getting punctures in the forests of Kielder.
Colin McRae will always be missed, and this year Wales Rally GB will have a special exhibition commemorating him and his achievements. In the EngageSportMode office there’s a print on the wall of McRae on the 1995 RAC Rally. It’s there as a reminder of the immense talent that Colin had, along with being a memento of a time when rallying was a true epic battle between man and machine.