Colin McRae’s incredible Rally Argentina fix

A wheel tucked into the arch would have spelt the rally's end for most drivers. But McRae wasn't most drivers...

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Stories of Colin McRae’s sublime skill and bravery abound. We’re well acquainted with them. What’s often overlooked when considering the Scot’s impact on rallying is his ability with a set of spanners.

Early in his career, aided by close friends like Barrie Lochhead, McRae would spend weeknights locked away in a garage building and rebuilding rally cars to take out at the weekend.

Nothing was handed to him on a plate and his interest and fascination with the engineering side of rallying remained with him – all the way through to the production of his own rally car, the R4.

McRae’s willingness to get his hands dirty was never more evident than on the 1998 Rally Argentina. He’d finished second overall in South America 12 months earlier and was battling Tommi Mäkinen for the win aboard a Subaru Impreza WRC98 a year later.

Mitsubishi’s superstar Finn was rattled, having seen McRae better his record time through the Chamico-Ambul test.

Unfortunately for Colin and co-driver Nicky Grist, that was as close as they’d get to victory on the event. Clobbering a boulder in the middle of the road mashed the Subaru’s right-rear suspension and forced them to complete the La Toma-Giulio Cesare test with the wheel tucked into the arch.

Getting out of the car at the end of the stage, McRae lay underneath the car and surveyed the damage. He needed to get the wheel off to work on it. But with the Pirelli jammed against the bodywork, there was no hope of getting the wheel off the car. Unless…

If he could get the tire off the rim, that could work. McRae set off on the road section in the crabbing Impreza and some enthusiastic driving did the job. The tire exploded.

That offered the opportunity to get in and survey the damage. The corner’s lateral link was badly bent, but not broken. McRae eventually got the link off, but with no spare it looked like the job was done.

Until somebody had the idea of putting the link between two rocks and smashing it back into shape. It took a while, but the job was done.

Now this is where the story gets good.

With no anti-roll bar, a bent link and a staggering amount of movement in the wheel… McRae went fastest through the rocks and down the hill on El Condor.

Unfortunately the rock work had taken its time and 2 minutes and 30 seconds of penalties meant fifth place was scant reward for such an outstanding effort.

That was McRae: resourceful, committed and very, very fast. It’s for those very reasons that still, to this day (although unfortunately not actually on this day), the Scot’s name is chanted and the Saltire flown in his memory.