Colin McRae was a rally legend with a flamboyant, exciting driving style much like that of his idol, Ari Vatanen. With a win-or-crash mentality, McRae was never averse to risk, which sometimes took him out of the running before the end of a rally, but it won over legions of fans, one of whom was Vicki Butler-Henderson, former Top Gear and Fifth Gear host.
Butler-Henderson’s enthusiasm for fellow racing aces is infectious, and watching her light up at every slide from the hard-charging Scot is something any gearhead can relate to. The first featured steed, a Prodrive 911 SCRS, was built by the company which gave McRae his professional start, albeit in a Subaru Legacy. This machine, built ten years prior to the Scot’s professional debut, was one of the last old-school rally beasts, with a rear-wheel drive layout that encouraged a specific driving style.
To counter narrow front tires and little weight above them, McRae forces the 911 to rotate into the corner with an armful of lock, then balances the transition with a bootful of throttle. The result is wild, lurid, and very spectacular. It takes a specific approach for older cars like this, but with the more modern WRC cars, like the Subaru McRae thrashes next, they seem far more willing to change direction.
McRae uses a big Scandinavian flick to chuck the four-wheel drive Subaru into the corner, which only seems to require a twitch of the steering wheel to begin rotating. Far edgier than the old SCRS, this modern rally machine boasts a directness thanks to a much more sophisticated chassis and engine. The powerplant may only make around 300 horsepower, but the massive torque all across the entire rev range make it a veritable missile down the straights. It takes a clear mind to make driving these very different machines seem so easy and natural, but it only takes one glimpse at Butler-Henderson’s face — an accomplished driver in her own right — to recognize that McRae was a special sort of talent, and one that went too soon.