The day I realized McRae was the new Toivonen

In the first of a new series, Ian Grindrod recalls the time he sat with Colin on the 1986 Snowman Rally

Lombard RAC Rally , Harrogate 24-28 11 1991

It’s January 1986 and Ian Grindrod’s telephone rings. Lanark’s calling. It’s Jimmy. Would Ian consider sitting with McRae Jr on the Snowman?

The dates work… the opening round of the Scottish championship is a week out from when Grindrod will join McRae Sr in an MG Metro 6R4 for the opening round of the British championship. Why not?

In the first of a series of stories, Ian takes up the tale.

The Snowman Rally 1986: well it was certainly well named because it was full snow alright.

Jim had asked me to sit in with Colin, basically to get my opinion on how good a driver he was, or would become.

At the start of the rally, I got into the car and my opening statement was: “Right Colin, don’t try to impress me because I’ve been impressed by far better drivers than you will ever be”. How wrong did that statement turn out?

Off we went into the snowy stages, and I have to say I was initially impressed by this young lad, it was certainly obvious he could handle a car.

On one stage we caught a guy in a Mk2 Escort, and to be fair to him, he was trying his best to find a place to pull over to let us past, but the ditches at each side of the road were filled with snow, making it really difficult to find a spot where he wouldn’t fall into one.

Colin asked me what he should do. Now in 1984 I had been with Henri Toivonen in the Rothmans Porsche on the Zlatni Piassatzi Rally in Bulgaria, an ERC round, and our rival for that series was Carlo Capone in a Lancia 037. We were all on slick tires for this Tarmac event but it snowed on one stage and we caught Capone, who refused to let us passed. Henri gave him three or four corners before tapping Capone’s rear end on the fifth and off he went.

So all this came back into my mind when Colin asked the question. I said: “On the next sharp corner just give the car a tap and lets see what happens” Colin duly obliged and the Escort slid off gently in the snow.

Jim asked me what I thought at the end of the rally and I remember making what was probably a silly statement at the time

We reached the stage finish where there was some kind of delay and Colin looked in the mirror and told me that the boy in the Escort had pulled in to the finish thankfully. Colin said to me: “Maybe you should apologize. I said to Colin: “You pushed him off, you go and apologize!”

We had a few mechanical problems if I remember but it was obvious to me that Colin was going to go far in rallying. Thinking back at the time of the driving style of Henri, if I had shut my eyes sitting next to Colin that day, I could easily have been sat next to Henri. He was that good.

Jim asked me what I thought at the end of the rally and I remember making what was probably a silly statement at the time.

“Well Jim, if that boy doesn’t become world champion I’ll eat my hat.”

Silly it might have been in 1986, but became true in 1995 and there were no hats in sight.

Words:Ian Grindrod