Struggling on through Indonesian heat and mud

Girardo's picture of the week captures Colin McRae's travails through the tough terrain of the Sumatran rainforest


Listening to the voice of Mark James is a brilliant way to start any morning. Apologies if that embarrasses you, Mark, but it’s true.

One particular morning last week, Mark’s iconically smooth voice – in tandem with Tiff Needell – was bringing the pictures from Rally Indonesia 1997 to life. An event, I must admit, I had totally forgotten about!

As Carlos Sainz took victory ahead of Ford team-mate Juha Kankkunen, the real story was the demise – yet again – of Subaru’s Colin McRae.

The 1995 world champion needed a big result to reinvigorate his title chances and chase down championship leader Tommi Mäkinen after three retirements on the bounce before the WRC’s sole trip to Asia.

It was all going to plan as McRae led by over 40 seconds, but as the rally crossed its halfway point the Scot faltered – running wide off a corner and damaging his Impreza WRC’s radiator.

McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist worked frantically to keep the car running, and so did the Subaru mechanics once it eventually returned to service. But retirement was unavoidable.

Thankfully for McRae, Mäkinen’s Mitsubishi failed to score either – offering him a glimmer of championship hope. He’d win the final three rounds, but Mäkinen would beat him to a second world crown by just a single point.

Anyway, history lesson over; what about the present? More specifically, the Girardo & Co. Archive.

Rally Indonesia Medan (IND) 19-21 09 1997

One of my favorite things to do now whenever I re-watch old rally coverage is search for imagery of the event, which led me onto Girardo’s archive. I was so excited to explore, I’m actually filing this feature on July 12 – one week before the day it is being published!

That’s because I found this beauty, perfectly conveying McRae’s struggle through the Indonesian jungle.

A steamed-up lens in the soaring heat, thick mud doing its best to wreak havoc and an Impreza looking a little bit sorry for itself; images like this portray rallying at its best. To lean on that famous old cliché, it’s the best example of man and machine vs the elements.

I’m in danger of making this a high school English essay now where I overanalyze what’s in front of me, but McRae’s fire-spitting rally car traversing the Indonesian terrain is just so out of any normal kind of context, I love it.

I love it almost as much as Mark James’ voiceover. Almost.