Colin McRae’s WRC breakthrough: New Zealand 1993
While the current stars of the World Rally Championship strut their stuff on the other side of the world in Rally New Zealand, cast your mind back almost 20 years to the 1993 event.
The eighth round of the 13-round ’93 series was one of the most significant events in the then-20-year history of rallying’s top flight. Not only did the Kiwi classic mark the breakthrough victory for Japanese marque Subaru, it also signalled the arrival into the winner’s circle of 25-year-old Scot Colin McRae.
The McRae/Subaru partnership quite rightly resonates among rally fans the world over, thanks to their 16 wins and 1995 world title together, but it was that maiden victory Down Under that kickstarted the McRae phenomenon. After all, British fans had had to wait 17 years for someone to come along and add to Roger Clark’s sole WRC win on the 1976 RAC Rally.
Starting on McRae’s 25th birthday, Thursday Aug 5, the 1993 Rothmans Rally of New Zealand’s 75 entries faced 36 stages over the four days and McRae, who took the lead a third of the way through the event, would be fastest on seven of them, including the fearsome 44.8-kilometre Motu stage.
It was enough for McRae and co-driver Derek Ringer and the #7 Prodrive-run Subaru Legacy RS to hold off the best that Ford (Francois Delecour) and Toyota (Didier Auriol) could throw at them.
McRae admitted after sealing his place in WRC history: “I was very tense at first while we tried to find the right pace. But we knew we had won on the second last stage and we were able to relax a bit from then. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but the result is a great relief to me and the team.”
For the crack British Prodrive team, run by 1981 world rally co-driver champion David Richards, success for the Legacy meant that attention could turn to its replacement, the lighter, smaller and faster Impreza. The directive from on high that the Legacy must win before energy was expended on the Impreza had been adhered to.
For the next round in Finland, Ari Vatanen, the man for whom Richards had co-driven to the title back in ’81, brought the Impreza home in second place first time out. It was a portent of what was to come.
McRae, meanwhile, would contest one more rally in the Legacy, in Australia (he finished sixth), before getting his hands on the Impreza for his home event, the RAC.
And then there was no stopping him…
By Henry Hope-Frost. Follow Henry on Twitter @henryhopefrost