If there was a Group A Subaru Legacy RS Colin McRae didn’t want to drive, it was this one: J314 PWL.
Not that there was anything wrong with the Prodrive-built machine – quite the opposite. In 1992 the Rothmans-liveried car doubled as a steamroller.
Eyeing the entertaining battle for Group N honors that his brother Alister was engaged in across the same British Rally Championship season, the older of the two McRaes had an idea.
“Write that I should be in a Group N Legacy for the next event,” he urged journalists following a crushing win on the Pirelli International Rally.
And crushing was, if anything, underplaying things. Defending the title he’d scrapped Russell Brookes for through the previous season, McRae was armed with chassis #109.
The then 23-year-old was disappointed at the absence of the Yorkshire-based opening round – the very event (the Cartel International) where he’d broken his British Championship duck two years earlier – but finishing second on the Swedish Rally wasn’t a bad loosener for what was to come.
The British season commenced with the Vauxhall Rally of Wales. McRae won every stage and took the event by almost five minutes. Next up? The Pirelli. Different format: four long stages in Kielder, but same story with another near-five-minute win.
Domination of the Scottish Rally completed a clean sweep of the opening three gravel rounds. What about the Tarmac? Would the story be different when the series headed across the Irish Sea?
Not so much.
McRae and that Legacy romped home to win the Ulster by 11 minutes. The Manx was tighter, with the gap to Irish legend Bertie Fisher just six minutes.
Across the season, Colin and co-driver Derek Ringer won 92 out of 112 stages. The car’s only minor issue? A head gasket change at the end of the opening day of the Scottish.
Departing the Manx, the Scotsmen were already crowned champions – but one hurdle lay before them: the chance for the clean sweep. Could they become the first crew to win every round of the British championship?
I refer you to the words above.
There was, however, a curve ball. That final round, the Elonex Rally (previously the Audi Sport and going back a bit further the Castrol Rally) offered perfect RAC Rally preparation. It ran through the same Welsh forests that would be pressed into action on Britain’s World Rally Championship counter a few weeks later.
For the second year in succession, Nissan Motorsports Europe sent a factory Sunny GTi-R. In 1991 David Llewellin had won the event, while McRae focused on landing his maiden British title. In 1992, Tommi Mäkinen lined up against an all-conquering Scot with the potential for writing his own chapter in history. Colin wanted five out of five to be six from six.
Based out of Telford, close to the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Elonex was running a radically different format in 1992. There were a couple of runs through Weston Park on the Saturday evening, with the action concluding at around 8pm. Then it was off to bed for a couple of hours before Hafren started the Sunday action… at 2.23am!
McRae had stormed into a three-second lead on Saturday evening, only for Mäkinen to reverse that advantage to the second on the repeated parkland test. They went to the woods dead level.
The Finn was the more awake of the two and rocketed into a 21-second lead through the 17-miler. Unperturbed, Colin hauled 18 of those back in Pantperthog and moved back into the lead when he took a further seven out of the Nissan driver in Gartheiniog.
Mäkinen cut McRae’s lead to just a single second in Dyfi Main.
A second run at the Pant-Garth-Dyfi combination worked in Tommi’s favor. As the sun rose on that Sunday morning, the #2 Sunny was five seconds to the good.
All that was left was a dash through Dyfnant and two more runs at the Weston Park stage. McRae took two in Dyfnant and another two in the penultimate test.
After a year of utter domination by minutes, the final rally in McRae’s potentially history-making season came down to a final-stage, single-second shoot-out across 1.52-miles of horribly slippery Shropshire Tarmac.
The result? McRae won the stage by two and the rally by one.
The Rothmans Legacy was doused in Sunday lunchtime champagne and history was re-written.
And that very Legacy will go under the hammer at Silverstone on Friday. Further details are available here.