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Regardless of his sons’ subsequent success, Jimmy McRae remains the most successful British Rally Championship competitor of all time – bar none.

Always keen on anything powered by a motor – and particularly motor and trials bikes – Jimmy spent many hours around the sport, but it wasn't until the relatively late age of 31 that he would turn his thoughts towards rallying.

Even then, the father of three didn't envisage he was embarking on a career, let alone the journey that would lead to him being a familiar face of the British and World Rally Championships to this day.

His subsequent successes are well documented, his unrivalled five British Rally Championship successes (in 1981, ’82, ’84, ’87 and ’88) complemented by a further two Irish Tarmac Championships (in. 1980 and ’81, and complemented by an incredible seven Circuit of Ireland victories).

But it wasn't just the sheer number of championships he won that set Jimmy apart from his peers. Competing at the height of the British Championship’s standing, when World Championship regulars like Toivonen, Mikkola, Vatanen, Blomqvist and Ecklund would frequently contest the events, Jimmy frequently took on – and beat – the world’s best drivers.

That ability was further underlined by Jimmy’s outstanding results on international events. Although his late start in the sport made World Rally Championship success a distant dream, he rarely disappointed when the opportunities arose. Highlights included third overall on the Lombard RAC Rally in 1983 (Opel Manta 400) and ’87 (Ford Sierra RS Cosworth) and fourth on the 1989 Acropolis Rally (Mitsubishi Galant VR-4).

In the European Championship he scored outright wins on the Rally of Cyprus, Rally Halkidikis, Rally du Var, Ypres Rally and also many podiums finishes in other European qualifying rounds. Jimmy also scored numerous successes in the Middle East and South African Rally Championships.

Until his sons’ ascendancy, only Roger Clark and Russell Brookes bettered his RAC results, and that he was always in the hunt for wins on British Championship gravel events, but luck always seemed to desert him after many runner up spots.

Either way, those results also set up a stirring rivalry with archrival Brookes, which remains the talk of British rallying circles to this day. Jimmy's committed driving style and aggression was offset by a laid back humour out of the car, and made him a firm favourite among the spectators. The rivalry, although rarely anything other than good-natured, carried the sport to a new level.

Adding to the intrigue was Jimmy’s longevity at the top of the sport – and the variety of cars he achieved his success in. During 1974/5 he drove a Twin Cam Escort switching to a Vauxhall Magnum Coupe in 1976. He will always be remembered best for his exploits in the tail-happy Opel Manta. Fans will also cherish recollections of his British titles in Sierra Cosworths – performances that helped promote the car to the British publics attention.

Nor was his versatility confined to stages surfaces or types of machinery. Rallying has always been based on teamwork, and Jimmy scooped his five British titles with three different co-drivers sat alongside him calling the notes – Ian Grindrod, Mike Nicholson and Rob Arthur all shared in his success.

But, with Colin embarking on his own career in 1986 – a foray that was backed by Jimmy. He soon started to find his time taken up by his son’s burgeoning career. What’s more, little did he know as he set up McRae Motorsport, that the project would expand to manage the careers of Colin, Alister, Kris Meeke and himself. But the management of Colin, and later Alister and Kris’ career, didn’t mean the absolute end of Jimmy’s driving career. Still a crowd favourite, he always kept his hand in, putting in guest drives in a vast variety of modern and historic championships.

In recent years this has included finishing as top British privateer on Wales Rally GB in 2003 at the wheel of a Subaru Impreza GpA car and winning the European leg of the London to Sydney Marathon in 2004 in a Toyota RunX.

Jimmy has enjoyed success competing on Historic Rallies driving Porsches, Mk1 Lotus Cortinas and Mk1 Ford Escort, recording a hat trick of wins on the Historic Scottish Rally during 1996/7/8 and claimed numerous victories in the Historic/Classic Rally of Ypres. More recently in December 2004 he recorded fastest time over eight of the nine stages on the Killarney Historic Rally driving a Post Historic Porsche, winning the class by over 4 minutes, proving that he is still one of Britains finest drivers.

2005 saw Jimmy beat the younger Finnish driver Pasi Hagstrom when they both drove similar Mk 2 Ford Escorts prepared by the Rossendale Rally Team on the Classic Otago Rally which was based in Dunedin, New Zealand. After 250 kms of stages the flying Scotsman proved he is still the man to beat finishing 34 seconds ahead of his team-mate.

The McRae clan celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the 2005 Scottish Rally when Colin, Alister and Jimmy entered Mk2 Ford Escorts on the Scottish National Rally. It was the first time in 13 years that all three McRaes had competed on the same Scottish event. After Colin lost time when he was stuck in sixth gear Alister was the quickest of the clan beating father Jim by 11 seconds. The Scottish fans packed the forests to witness the family in action.

Jimmy scored his first win of 2006 when he recorded a convincing victory on the Astra Stages Rally, the second round of the MSA British Historic Stage Rally Championship.  Driving the Prepfab 3-litre Porsche he won the event overall by 22 seconds and the post-historic section by 38 seconds.  He visited New Zealand twice during the year for the Otago Rally in May when he drove a Mk2 Ford Escort and the Silver Fern Rally in October when he drove a Honda Integra. At the end of August Jimmy competed on the Ulster Rally, his first modern rally for two years. Driving a Group N Subaru Impreza and mixing with the Irish World Rally cars he entertained his Irish fans by finishing eigth quickest British Championship registered car and 15th overall. The year finished in fine style when he took victory on the Roger Albert Clark Rally driving the Stobart Mk2 Ford Escort.

Stobarts are continuing to support Jimmy into the 2007 season when he will be seen driving the Prepfab prepared Mk2 Ford Escort in the British Historic Rally Championship.

Still going strong beyond his 60th birthday, Jimmy McRae is testament to the fact that the best drivers never lose their speed.


Jimmy McRae

Jimmy McRae

Jimmy McRae

Jimmy McRae in a Porsche

Jimmy McRae in a Ford

Colin, Jimmy and Alister McRae

Colin, Jimmy and Alister McRae