It’s that day again. For three years, this was a good day to send Robert Reid a text. Just a reminder. Well done for ruling the world. I’d send the same message to Richard Burns.
Four years on, the message changed fairly significantly. The irony of Burns dying four years to the day after winning Rally GB and becoming England’s first world champion is breathtaking.
Preparing a text this morning, I thought better of it and went for the call instead.
Last week was all about one of British rallying’s super-heroes and it would have been quite wrong not to register the day Burns joined McRae on top of the world.
It was on this day in 2001 that Richard reminded Robert of his standing in our world in quite spectacular fashion. Arriving at the bottom of the hill on the Margam Park stage on a typically wet and miserable November afternoon, Burns lifted his hand from the wheel of his Subaru Impreza WRC2001, grabbed Reid’s hand, and shouted: “You’re the best in the world!”
It was a very cool – but completely conflicted – moment.
Instead of partying for the days which followed, Burns would be busy with his barrister in the High Court trying to escape a Subaru contract to defend his title with Peugeot. In the end, he made it. But there’s no doubt it took some of the shine off the crown.
Four years on and, for me, a wet Sunday in Wales had become a Friday night session in a pub in Oxford. The phone rang. It was Robert with the news he’d never wanted to deliver. And the world was similarly devastated to hear.
Richard had gone.
There are a million and one stories to tell about RB, but now’s not the time. Let’s wait a moment. Twelve months. It’s 19 years since that famous world title. Come back to DirtFish this time next year, we’ll bring everybody together and do the job properly.
As our conversations so often do, today’s moved onto other mates missing.
Michael ‘Beef’ Park is somebody I knew well, but Robert knew very, very well. It’s fair to say the pair of us still miss him and his fabulously down-to-earth Herefordshire way of looking at life.
Again, I feel we should have done more to mark Beef’s departure. Like Richard, he was away in 2005, just shortly after we lost prolific journalist David Williams. It’s fair to say 2005 was British rallying’s very own annus horribilis.
Memories of Beef are plentiful and again we’ll discuss those more next season. He might have been Markko Märtin’s co-driver, but he was very much a member of Team Burns/Reid in his formative years.
Beef was just normal. No edge, no airs, no graces. And a wicked sense of humor; it’s impossible to listen to The Jam’s Going Underground without being reminded of his funeral and that moment when laughter rippled around the church.
All that was missing was the utterly distinctive laugh that would forever be Beef.
Anyway, enough. Today, once a great day and now a great day to remember the very best of people.
To you Burnsie. And Beef.