To say that one person defined a sport could be seen as somewhat extreme, but to many people, Colin McRae was rallying.

The first Briton to win the World Rally Championship title, McRae lost his life on Saturday evening when his helicopter crashed close to his home on the Jerviswood Estate just outside Lanark in Scotland. Also on board was McRae's five-year-old son Jonny, his friend young Ben Porcelli and family friend Graeme Duncan.

With his father Jimmy being a star of the rally stages himself, McRae was always set to follow in his footsteps and kicked off his career in 1986 as he made his rally debut in a Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.

Within a year, he was competing in a World Rally Championship event as he piloted a little Vauxhall Nova to 36th place in the challenging Swedish Rally. Success followed in the Scottish national series before McRae joined Prodrive for the 1991 British Rally Championship season - putting him at the wheel of a Subaru for the first time and seeing him secure the championship crown for two years in succession.

Alongside his British campaign, came occasional outings in the WRC in his Subaru Legacy, with a fine drive to second in Sweden in 1992 on his first drive in the car at world championship level being followed by his first WRC victory in 1993 in New Zealand.

For 1994 came a new car, as the Subaru Impreza made its debut on the rally stages. Over the coming seasons, McRae and the Impreza would be the dream team, and a partnership that was instantly recognisable to millions.

McRae took two wins in his first season with the car and then repeated the feat the following season with victories in New Zealand and Great Britain. Those two wins were enough to see him crowned champion - the first Briton to lift the world title.

"He had a competitive spirit like I've never seen," Subaru team boss David Richards said. "He was one of those people who had an extraordinary spirit that you just can't define. It's a terrible loss.

"There are few people in life I would ever call a legend, but for me Colin was one of those people. He was just so competitive, and so extreme in everything he did. And yet also great fun."

In both 1996 and 1997, McRae finished second in the standings, but after finishing the 1998 campaign in third place he elected to seek a new challenge and switched to Ford - who were introducing the new Focus WRC for the 1999 season.

McRae gave the Focus its first win on the famous Safari Rally in Kenya and also won in Portugal en route to sixth in the championship standings and remained with the Blue Oval through to the end of 2002, the season in which he secured what would be his 25th and final WRC win - at that time putting him top of the all-time winners list.

"There was an expectancy every time Colin was in a rally stage - you knew that something was going to happen," his team boss at Ford, Martin Whitaker, reflects. "He was either going to be blindingly fast or he was going to have a spectacular accident - what ever he did was flat-out.

"That expectancy as you stood there - whether it was in a forest in Wales or up in the Trossachs in Scotland, or in Argentina or New Zealand - was because you knew that there was something going to happen when Colin arrived on the scene.

"His driving style was just extraordinary. Rallying had always had a strong following around the world before Colin McRae came along - but I think every now and then a driver comes on the scene that just has that something extra, and I think Colin had something extra and his legacy is what we see today in the popularity of the sport."

After a season with Citroen in 2003, McRae found himself without a seat for 2004 due to changes in the regulations of the sport that meant the French team downsized from three cars to two. However, McRae simply turned his focus to other forms of racing, with an appearance in both the Dakar Rally and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Returning to the Dakar in 2005, McRae was leading for Nissan when he was forced to retire following an accident but made a return to the WRC later in the year as he was given the chance to compete on Wales Rally GB and in Australia for Skoda.

A seventh place finish on home soil was overshadowed by the death of popular co-driver Michael Park in an accident on the final day, but in Australia, McRae showed that his absence from the WRC hadn't affected his speed as he looked set to take the un-fancied Fabia to the podium before a clutch issue forced him to retire just three stages from the finish - leaving to heartache in the service area that his brave drive hadn't been rewarded.

There would be just one more WRC outing for McRae when he was called up by the Kronos Citroen team to replace the injured Sebastien Loeb in Turkey last year, while he also made appearances in the British Rally Championship in his MkII Escort and in the X-Games in America - where he managed to finish second in 2006 despite rolling his Subaru Impreza.

However, there is a whole new raft of fans to whom the McRae name is synonymous with rallying, and that it the generation who know him as the man behind the rally games that bear his name.

For that reason, if you were to stop someone on the street and ask them to name a rally driver, McRae would be the answer - to many young fans, he was Mr WRC.

His death leaves a huge hole in the sport, especially as it comes only a matter of years after Park and Richard Burns, the only other Briton to lift the WRC title, also passed away.

As Whitaker mentioned above, it will be McRae's all action style that he will be remembered for most, along with a record that saw him take 25 victories at the highest level - a figure which was, for a while, an all-time record.

Perhaps the words of his co-driver Nicky Grist best sum up the feelings that are left at his passing.

"He was one of the most exciting and exhilarating drivers. He could turn on the extra speed just when it was needed to grab extra seconds to win the rally, and he was also one of the fans' favourites. Whenever we were at a rally you would always see millions of Scottish flags there for him.

"He was exhilarating to watch and he will be sorely missed."