Activities to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Colin McRae becoming Britain's first FIA World Rally champion are gaining momentum, with a raft of special features planned for next weekend's Wales Rally GB.
It was on the 1995 Network Q RAC Rally – the final round of the season – that McRae lifted the world championship laurels, defeating Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz in a straight fight to become the youngest-ever title-winner.
The Scot was met by a rapturous reception when he reached the finishing ramp in Chester that year and now, two decades on and just down the road in Deeside, his success will be celebrated once more as rallying fans and the WRC community unite to remember one of the most popular and spectacular drivers in the history of the sport.
Central to the celebrations will be an impressive two-tier structure in the service park, which will house four of McRae's most legendary rally cars, two of which he piloted to victory on home turf – his 1995 and 1997 Subaru Imprezas - as well as a brace of Ford Focus RS WRCs.
Other attractions will include original race suits, pace notes, trophies and posters – some of which have never previously been seen in public – that have been supplied by Jimmy McRae, M-Sport, Prodrive, Derek Ringer and Nicky Grist amongst others. The pièce de résistance
, meanwhile, will be a bespoke multimedia show, utilising video footage, still photography and personal tributes to depict McRae's remarkable career and his sensational achievements in all their glory. This special production – with commentary from David Coulthard – will also be for sale at the event as a limited edition tribute DVD.
In addition to the display, two of McRae's former co-drivers – Ringer, who co-drove McRae to his world title triumph back in 1995, and Grist, who enjoyed 17 WRC victories alongside the Scot - will be in attendance all weekend, while the Scot's mother Margaret, wife Alison and daughter Hollie will also join in the celebrations.
Father Jimmy, himself a five-time British Rally champion, will be contesting the Network Q WRGB National Rally in a mighty V8 Vauxhall Firenza Can-Am, but will also flag away the first car from the official ceremonial start in Llandudno on Thursday 12 November.
That first car will be a Group N Subaru WRX STI, driven by seven-time Rally America champion David Higgins, and featuring an evocative throwback blue-and-yellow livery with classic gold wheels. Both McRae and Higgins will appear in the pre-rally public autograph session earlier the same day in Llandudno's Venue Cymru.
“It does not seem 20 years ago that Margaret and I were at the finish in Chester celebrating Colin's achievement,” 72-year-old Jimmy McRae reflected, “The McRae family are humbled by the celebrations being organised in tribute to his memory.
“Colin was very popular in America, and I am very pleased that Subaru America are making the trip to this year's Wales Rally GB. This will also be very special for David, who was a good friend of Colin's. It will be an emotional time, but I will be focused on my own rally, driving those classic Welsh stages in the noisy V8 Firenza and hoping to improve on last year's finish.”
“There is definitely going to be a lot of emotion when people see the car – it is such a special livery,” Higgins, a Manxman who has made his home in Wales, concurred, “What we have here is a fantastic opportunity to remind people just how big Colin was and still is.
“It is also really important to remember how important Colin and Derek winning the world championship was for British rallying. It put us on the map and helped give younger drivers an opportunity; I benefitted from their success and I'm sure British drivers are still benefitting now.”
The Deeside Service Park and Rally Village will be free to enter and open from Thursday through to Sunday.