Twenty-five years ago, nobody could touch McRae as he charged through the British woods. The Scot’s Subaru Impreza 555 was sensationally quicker than everybody at every turn. But there was a fly hovering dangerously above the ointment…

McRae’s team-mate Carlos Sainz was lying second. The Spaniard’s main threat for the title, Didier Auriol, was behind fellow Toyota driver Juha Kankkunen. If Toyota boss Ove Andersson moved Auriol ahead of the Finn, then Richards would simply follow and switch McRae and Sainz.

“They can only cost Colin his win,” said Richards ahead of the run down from the Scottish Borders towards Wales.

The matter was settled when Sainz went off the road in Pantperthog, the opening test of the final morning. Sixth was enough for France to celebrate a maiden WRC drivers’ title and McRae kept the win he deserved.

And what a win it was. He ended the 520 competitive kilometres more than 3min 30sec ahead of Kankkunen’s Celica.

RAC Rally team-mates Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae

Having tried, led, come close, but ultimately failing to win the RAC for the previous three years, McRae didn’t just win 25 years ago, he made the best of the rest of the drivers in the world look average.

McRae and co-driver Derek Ringer won 16 of the 29 special stages. They were second quickest on nine and never finished a test lower than fourth.

Cruising through the last of those stages, Clocaenog East, a road close to the final day’s Wales Rally GB route this week, the Scot even had time to acknowledge the enormous crowds lining the forest tracks.

After spinning his Subaru in some smoking donuts at the Chester racecourse finish, McRae offered the massed ranks even more to cheer when he told them he’d be back in 12 months… but this time he’d be fighting for the title. He delivered on his word.

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