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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

British Rally Ace Colin McRae dies in helicopter crash

Source: [ ] Colin McRae, the former world rally champion, died along with his five-year-old son Johnny when his helicopter crashed near Lanark in Scotland yesterday. Two other people on board, believed to be close friends of McRae, also died. Jean-Eric Freudiger, the driver’s agent, confirmed McRae’s wife Alison and daughter Hollie were not on board.

The Squirrel aircraft came down in Jervis Wood near Lanark just after 4pm and immediately burst into flames. Strathclyde police said the damage to the helicopter was so bad that it could not immediately be determined how many people were on board. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has been called in to investigate the cause of the crash.

The Scottish Ambulance Service said its own helicopter was despatched to the scene along with three ambulance crews. Strathclyde Fire Service also had units in attendance at the scene.

McRae was one of the most popular and successful drivers the sport has seen. He won 25 rallies in the World Rally Championship, finished on the podium 42 times and claimed the world championship itself in 1995. The next year he was awarded an MBE. He won a host of fans throughout the world, captivated by his daredevil style - he became as well known for his spectacular spills as for his victories.

He achieved his greatest successes with Subaru, before helping to transform the fortunes of Ford. He signed for the team in 1999 and won two races, a feat he repeated the following year. In 2001 he came within a whisker of winning the world championship again but was pipped to the title by fellow Briton Richard Burns. The two men seemed set for a rivalry that would last for years, and captivate the sport, but in a cruel twist of fate, Burns was forced to quit when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Burns fought a brave battle before dying in November 2005 - exactly four years after winning his title.

McRae won two more rallies for Ford in 2002, but the team did not renew his contract at the end of the season, and, incredibly, he found himself without a drive. He took part in various celebrity events, pulling in big crowds wherever he drove, and in 2004 he finished third in the GT class of the Le Mans 24-hour race.

He also took part in the Dakar rally. In 2005 he recorded two fastest times and was leading the event by more than six minutes when his Nissan hit a hidden ledge and catapulted end over end at high speed. Amazingly, McRae and his co-driver escaped serious injury.

McRae was one of the most flamboyant drivers in British sport and inspired one of the world’s best-selling computer rally games. His father, Jimmy, was five times British rally champion, and his son inherited his love of cars. McRae’s brother, Alister, a former British rally champion, is in Australia.

2007/09/16 | 13:01 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Times Online

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