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Motor Racing Legend: Colin McRae

Posted in Lanarkshire,Motor Racing Legends by Wheels Near U Team on the November 26th, 2007

Colin McRae - Motor Racing LegendMotor racing legends has been a series where we have looked into some of the most talented drivers that ever lived, from Stirling Moss the multi talented London born racing character to more recently focusing on the likes of Michael Schumacher and Petter Solberg who have achieved outstanding awards in their individual motor racing careers.

Continuing with rally drivers we now take a look at the driving prowess and raw technique of the Scottish Rally Driver – Colin McRae.

Born Colin Steele McRae on the 5th of August 1968, in Lanark, Scotland. Colin Began his motor racing career young, racing on trails bikes. The two wheel motor sports only kept his interest shortly though as he always seemed to take a shine to the four wheeled equivalent. When McRae was 16 years old he traded his Bike in for a Mini Cooper, a move that he planned in order to allow him to enjoy his new found favourite motor sport. With the Coltness Car Club Colin McRae began autotesting.

Within a year Colin had moved up, negotiating the use of a fellow club members Hillman Avenger. He used the car for the Kames Stages (single staged rally venue based near McRae’s home.) This stage saw McRae finish fourteenth although first in his class and overall he achieved a high position throughout.

This was just the start for the talented Colin McRae and by 1986 he was driving a Talbot Sunbeam in the Scottish Rally Championship. It was apparent to spectators of this rally that McRae was a force to be reckoned with, his fast driving and exciting style made fans draw comparisons to the Finnish World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen, someone that Colin had always considered a role model.

The following years saw Colin progress to a Vauxhall Nova, Ford Sierra XR and in 1987 he took part in his first WRC event – the 1987 Swedish Rally. Two years after that first WRC rally in his nova, Colin finished 15th overall in the same event but driving his Ford Sierra. He went on to finish 5th overall at Rally New Zealand driving a rear-wheel drive Sierra Cosworth.

Colin McRaes 555 Subaru Impreza

Several years later saw the union of Colin McRae with the infamous Subaru Rally team. In 1991 he signed to the Subaru team (by prodrive boss David Richards.) With this team he entered the British Rally Championship, claiming the title in both 1991 and 1992, guaranteeing his place with the Subaru Factory team in the World Rally Championships.Driving the Group A Subaru Legacy built by Pro-Drive, McRae won his first WRC rally at that year’s Rally New Zealand. After this Subaru started using the Subaru Impeza 555 and following an eventful two years in which the top TTE ran Toyota’s were excluded for using illegal turbo-chargers, Colin collected the Drivers Title.

Colin McRae then continued to win rallies for the following years, especially in the more specialised arenas such as Safari Rally and Tour De Corse, although he continued to be beaten at the last post by Finlands Tommi Mäkinen (driving for Mitsubishi Ralliart.) He did however manage to aid Subaru in completing their 3 consecutive manufacturer’s titles in the meantime. 1998 Saw Colin win 3 more rallies, placing him third in overall standings as well as winning the “Race of Champions” in Gran Canaria.

A new year and a new team, in 1999 Colin McRae signed to the Ford M-Sport team, driving the brand new ford focus rally car. A move that instantly brought fruit for Colin as he breezed two consecutive wins at Safari Rally and Rally Portugal, however after numerous reliability issues from the new ford McRae managed sixth place in the championship standings. Colin made a comeback over the asphalt turns of Catalunya, dominated the gravel corners of Greece and managed 4th in the 2000 championship overall. McRae seemed to find it difficult to consistently drive within the new ford, with good and bad patchs such as failing to score at all in the first for rounds, only to score 3 consecutive victories in the rounds thereafter (Argentina, Cyprus and Greece.) However despite his dominating of the championship and heading into the final round in Great Britain, Colin again had problems with the car, crashing and loosing the first place in the drivers championship – a mere 2 points behind the Subaru team’s Richard Burns.

2002 saw McRae make the record books – the driver with the most event wins within the World Rally Championship, a record that has since been broken by Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Marcus Grönholm. The first two who beat Colin’s record were to be his team mates in 2003 as he joined Citroën Rally Team.

Colin McRaes Citroen WRC

Citroën had struck lucky the previous year with Loeb, but otherwise they had never really successfully targeted WRC. Colins addition to the team lead to a 1-2-3 finish on his debut race in Monte Carlo with Loeb and Sainz (Colin providing the second place position.) Unfortunately this was not a sign of things to come and McRae and he ended the season in seventh place with no victories and the Citroen team then decided to drop Colin for the following season.

In 2004 Colin was left without a drive, suitors Subaru chose another driver to partner with Petter Solberg and so McRae pursued some other interests, including competing in the famous Paris Dakar Rally as well as the 24 Hours Le Mans. In 2005 McRae also drove a Skoda Fabia WRC at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff -the Special Stage of the 2005 Rally GB.
Continuing for Skoda, McRae entered in one off drives for Skoda – 2005 Rally GB and Rally Australia saw him take seventh place, retiring due to a clutch problem on the Fabia.McRae Competed in the first live televised American rally in Los Angeles in 2006 as part of the X-Games. He rolled his car on the penultimate corner after landing skewed from a jump. Despite this he managed to retain a time only 0.13 seconds slower than the eventual winner named Travis Pastrana. Colin had one more final rally at World Championship level, replacing the then injured Loeb for Kronos Citroen at Rally Turkey, however an alternator problem restrained him and co-driver Nicky Grist to a final place below the top ten positions.

Colin McRae in Skoda Fabia WRC

Colin McRae partook in numerous types of racing, his competitive desire to race stretching far from the World Rally Championship. He drove in Ascar (the UK equivalent of Americas NASCAR), as well as the aforementioned Le Mans 24 hour race, Race of Champions and Paris Dakar rally.

Colin McRae was the 1991 and 1992 British Rally Champion and the 1995 World Rally Champion. He lead Subaru to their constructors title three times in succession from 1995 to 1997. Appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1996 Colin McRae was truly a Motor Racing Legend.

In a tragic accident on 15th September 2007 McRae, his Son Johnny and two family friends, Graeme Duncan and Johnny’s friend Ben Porcelli died when a helicopter they were in crashed to the ground. Piloted by Colin McRae it was identified that the crash was caused by mechanical failure. A tragic event for both motorsport and the families of the deceased.

To view photographs of Colin McRae the motor racing legend see our Motor Racing Legend Gallery. Or if you would like to read about some of the other Motor Racing Legends in this series:

Stirling Moss Petter Solberg Mike Hailwood

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Motor Racing Legend: Petter Solberg

Posted in Motor Racing Legends by Wheels Near U Team on the November 9th, 2007

Petter SolbergLast week we looked at Michael Schumacher the formula one champion who’s long running F1 career has brought him recognition across the world, before that we have written about Stirling Moss, the mid century racer with an outstanding driving ability and Jimmy Clark the Scottish born world class racer as well as several other Motor Racing Legends. For this weeks Motor Racing Legend we move to the rally scene, taking a look at World Rally Championship Winning Petter Solberg.

Much like the other racing legends we have looked at in this series Solberg showed promising signs of his future prospects from a young age, participating in Remote Control Car Championships as a child and teen, winning a nationwide RC Car Championship at the young age of 13. Solbergs’ parents (mother Tove and father Terje) likely inspired his interest in motorsport and car racing, competing in Bilcross (a lower cost version of Norwegian Rallycross) and being general rally enthusiasts and Rallycross fans.

Petter SolbergThe family lived on a farm, where Petter used to help rebuild the competition cars, too young to drive this was as close as he could get to the rally cars, for now. Following in his parents footsteps Petter Solberg entered his first bilcross in 1992, the day after receiving his driving license (and 3 days after his 18th birthday.) Only three years later in 1995 Solberg won the Norwegian championship in both Rallycross and Hillclimb, winning a staggering 19 out of 21 events. Solberg then won both again the following year with an impressive 15 out of 19 events won. 1998 saw Petter Solberg become the Norwegian Rally Champion and for 5 consecutive years after his win his older brother (Henning) claimed the title!

With such unanimous wins Petter Solberg began to be noticed by the World Rally Championship team bosses, who realised his potential and proceeded to offer him test drives. In the end of 1998 Solberg won a comparative test drive that sealed an agreement that he would drive for three years as a junior pilot for the Ford Motor Company. When he started this role he was not expected to break any records or do any high profile rallying but Solberg managed to become a nominated points scorer for ford. This was partly due to the gruelling Safari Rally in 1999 in which after Thomas Radstrom sustained an injury that would take him out of the race, Petter Solberg replaced him as Colin McRae’s understudy.

Petter Solberg

2000 saw Solberg leave the Ford Motor Company team early, signing up with the Prodrive Subaru World Rally Team. At the time SWRT (Subaru World Rally Team) was led by drivers such as Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen and Solberg’s first podium finish was delayed until the following year where he took the podium in the Acropolis Rally, Greece.

In 2002 Robert Burns left Subaru for Peugeot, opening the door for four-time champion Tommi Mäkinen to join and become Petter’s new team mate. Petter Solberg took his first ever World Rally Championship win in Wales (the Wales Rally GB) where he consistently drove well. Solberg won the event at Wales Rally GB again in 2003, providing him with his first World Championship Title.

The 2005 rally season was not lucky for Petter Solberg who was able to score 71 points in the year, severely hampered by Sébastien Loeb who won in his Citroen. He did win the Wales Rally GB, but this was marred after the death of Michael Park (Markko Martin’s navigator) who died in a crash on day three. Winning three rallies that year Solberg was considered to be affected by bad luck, most notably when he was forced to retire after hitting a kangaroo in the Telstra Rally Australia.

WRC 2005 - Petter Solberg

In 2006 Solberg continued to race for the Subaru Team behind the wheel of a new improved version of the WRC Impreza. He gained a main sponsor in 24SevenOffice with a large 5 million kroner (£450,000) sponsorship deal. Unfortunately Solberg did not manage any wins, only achieving a handful of runner-up places in Mexico, Australia and Argentina.

Petter Solberg has however got his 2007 season off to a better start where he managed a joint career best finish of 6th place in the Rally Monte Carlo. Since then he managed a third place finish in Sweden but had problems in Mexico, Argentina and Sardinia as he struggled with his Impreza. Retirements caused by technical problems saw Petter suffer a huge drop down the leader board.

WRC 2005 - Petter Solberg

Turning that around Petter managed a third place in the Acropolis Rally, which gives hope to his turnaround in the 2007 series.

Solberg is currently in 5th Position with 38 points between Sordo (4th) and his older brother in 6th place.

Petter Solberg is this weeks Motor Racing Legend, his team work and skill at Wales Rally GB mark him as a Motor Racing Legend. To see more photo’s and read more on Petter Solberg and his Prodrive Subaru Impreza WRC Car visit our Motor Racing Legends Gallery Or if you want to read more about other Motor Racing Legends here.

Motor Racing Legend: Michael Schumacher

Posted in Motor Racing Legends by Wheels Near U Team on the November 2nd, 2007

Michael Schumacher Motor Racing LegendAs part of our series looking at the motor racing legends that have lived in the last 100 years we have already looked at Stirling Moss, Mike Hailwood, Jimmy Clark and last week the Brazilian born racer Ayrton Senna. This weeks motor racing legend is Micheal Schumacher the German Formula 1 Champion.

Michael Schumacher was born 3rd January 1969 in Hürth Hermülheim, Germany. Born to a bricklayer named Rolf Schumacher at the age of four was already driving, his dad modified a pedal kart, adding a small motorcycle engine to propel it. Schumacher managed to crash the kart into a lamp post in Kerpen, at which point his parents thought it a good idea to take him to the local kart track at Kerpen-Horrem. He joined the karting club there as their youngest member. Michaels father built him a better cart from discarded parts allowing Schumacher to win his first cup championship at only six years old!

Rolf Schumacher wanted to support his son’s new hobby and took on a second job renting and repairing karts at the track. Michaels mother (Elizabeth) worked at the tracks food stand to further support her son. Despite their efforts Schumacher soon needed a new engine which was to cost DM800 (around £240) and his parents could not afford it. Luckily he managed to continue racing through support offered by several local business men.

Schumacher enjoyed karting tremendously and even obtained a karting license in Luxembourg (aged 12) in order to get around the age restrictions in Germany. 1983 saw Schumacher win the German Junior Kart Championship at the age of 14, from which he continued to win many German and European races. In 1985 he joined the Eurokart dealer Adolf Neubert and by 1987 he was the German and European Kart Champion. Schumacher then withdrew from schooling to begin work as a mechanic, but by 1988 he was again moving up the formulas and started racing single seat cars in the German Formula Ford and Formula König series. He won the Formula König series that year.

In 1989 Micheal Schumacher signed to Willi Weber’s WTS Formula 3 team and for the following two years competed in the German Formula 3 Series, winning in 1990. At the end of 1990 Schumacher joined the Mercedes junior racing program and the World Sports-Prototype Championship along with his Formula 3 Rival Heinz-Harald Fretzen. Although some said this move was unusual, Schumacher was acting on the advice of Weber, who told Michael Schumacher that ‘exposure to professional press conferences and driving powerful cars in long distance races would help his career’.

Sauber Mercedes C11

Schumacher gained victory at the final race of the season in a Sauber Mercedes C11. This victory gave him 5th place in the drivers championship. Continuing with the team for the 1991 Season Schumacher again won the final race (this time at Autopolis in Japan) driving a Sauber Mercedes-Benz C291, which placed him 9th in the drivers championship. That year Michael also competed in a single race in the Japanese Formula 3000, claiming second place.Michael Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut with the Jordon-Ford team in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix. He was acting as a replacement for Bertrand Gachot (who had been imprisoned for spraying cs gas at a taxi driver.) Schumacher was still at this point a contracted Mercedes driver, but was signed by Eddie Jordan after Mercedes Paid him $150,000. Schumacher learned the track before the race by cycling around it on a fold-up bicycle, which he had brought with him and when the race came Schumacher managed to qualify seventh, matching the team’s season-best grid position.

After this debut race Schumacher signed with Benetton-Ford, to which Jordan was not happy and applied for an injunction in the UK courts to prevent such a move, but lost the case as they had not yet signed a contract. Schumacher managed to finish the season (1991) with 4 points over 6 races.

The 1992 Season saw more negotiations between the newly entered Sauber Formula 1 team and Schumacher. But ultimately Michael stayed with Benetton, finishing 3rd in the Championship with 53 points. 1994 saw a similar outcome for Schumacher with a forth place overall finish (52 points.) Although he did manage a pole position and nine podium finishes.

1994 saw Michael Schumachers first Drivers Championship win. A mixed season, marred by the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Ronald Ratzenberger and scattered with allegations of cheating, and fines. Schumacher raced well although problems with his gear box and disqualifications based on cheating allegations meant Damon Hill managed to catch up. Damon would have taken first place had it not been for a crash between the two that saw Hill out of the race and Germany’s first Formula 1 World Championship.

In 1995 Michael Schumacher won a clear victory for Benetton, with Damon hill 33 points behind at the end of the season. Schumacher then moved to Ferrari, who at this point were considered far inferior to the other F1 teams. But in the following years he turned this around with continued efforts improving the team and even helping Ferrari win the Constructors title in 1999. At this point Mika Häkkinen also became a serious competitor for Schumacher. Three-time World Champion Jackie Stewart has said ‘the transformation of the Ferrari team was Schumacher’s greatest feat’.

The following three years saw three winning seasons for Schumacher, the 2000 world championship was Schumacher’s third, and the 2001 championship saw him finish with 123 points – 58 in front of the nearest competitor (Coulthard.)

Michael Schumacher 2004 Ferrari

2002 was an astounding year for Ferrari, the team who had been a running joke just 3 years ago won 15 out of 17 races and secured victory with six races to go. Schumacher drove the F2002, which is widely considered to be one of the most dominant racing cars in Formula 1.

In 2003 and 2004 Michael Schumacher’s achieved the last 2 of his record breaking 7 driver championships, notably in the 2004 Championship he managed to win twelve out of the first 13 races. The following two years saw the FIA’s attempts to make Formula 1 more interesting, with tyres required to last the whole race Ferrari lost its competitive edge with Bridgestone tyres not competing against Michelin.

Michael Schumacher retired in 2006 to work for Ferrari, picking the next generation of drivers. After the news got out, leading F1 figures such as Coulthard and Lauda hailed Schumacher as ‘the greatest all round racing driver in the history of Formula one’.

Schumacher has since been awarded for his legendary motoring from lots of different motoring bodies, with the Nürburgring renaming its turns 8 and 9 as the Schumacher S, the FIA awarding him their Gold Medal for Motor Sport and he has even won World Sportsman of the Year – twice!

Schumacher is undeniably a motor racing legend, he is often credited with popularising Formula 1 in Germany, has 7 championship titles and countless other records (most career wins, most wins in season, most career pole positions, most points in a season, most consecutive world championships, most consecutive race wins, most podium finishes, most laps leading, most fastest laps to name just a few.)

This concludes this weeks motor racing legend, if you would like to view some classic photographs of Schumacher or read more the click here to go to our motor racing legend gallery or perhaps read some more of our motor racing legends.

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