The misunderstood WRC rivalry that made friendships

When you think of rallying legends Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz, the grueling campaign of the 1995 World Rally Championship comes to mind.

But the public disintegration of his relationship with Subaru’s teammate at the time is not a true reflection, according to Sainz, who claims McRae was his closest friend and biggest rival in the WRC.

Of McRae’s 11 full-time WRC campaigns, the Scotsman spent six alongside the two-time world champion (1990, 1992) known as ‘El Matador’. The two spearheaded Subaru’s factory program in 1994 and 1995, but Sainz left the team after a controversial 1995 campaign. However, the duo joined forces again at Ford from 2000 to 2002 before moving to Citroen in 2003.

But it wasn’t until 1995 that McRae and Sainz made headlines for their WRC title fight. In his penultimate round at Sainz’s home ground in Catalunya, Subaru’s team-mates trailed him by five points in favor of McRae. After a series of lead swaps, Sainz led the rally by eight seconds heading into the final day.

With a one-two on the card, team principal David Richards declared the result should not be changed on Sunday. These team orders were not well received by McRae, who chose to ignore and push the Impreza on the final day. The Subaru team was forced into drastic action by sending team members onto the stage to try and slow McRae down.

In the end, after actually winning the rally, McRae checked in late to make sure the team’s orders were being followed, with Sainz claiming the victory.

quoted in a book McRae, Just Colin Sainz said of the incident: Two days later I was in the front and feeling confident [to win]And then the whole story changed, making this one of the most unfair situations. What has been written about this rally over and over again is not true. ”

Tensions ran high between McRae and Sainz over the 1995 WRC title fight, but it quickly passed to see the two become friends.

Photo credit: Sutton Images

Ultimately, McRae defeated Sainz to win the season finale in Great Britain, sealing the title after a grandstand duel and starting event level on points. But according to Sainz, the damage to the relationship was already there.

“Before I took part in this rally (RAC Rally), I spoke with Colin and told him that his behavior in Catalunya was not right. Colin apologized to me for what happened. I couldn’t beat him on stage, I didn’t have a chance, but after that rally I couldn’t stay with the team, it was too difficult.”

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However, in celebration of the WRC’s 50th anniversary season earlier this year, Sainz told Autosport that public perception of his and McRae’s relationship has not been far from the truth throughout their careers.

“I had a great time on the rally. After that we became really close friends and spent the summer together. We talked about it a few times.” [what happened in 1995] We were laughing after that.” Carlos Sainz

“I had a great fight with Colin in Subaru, Ford and Citroen,” Sainz said.
McRae died in a helicopter crash in 2007. But actually, he was the closest friend I had in the World Rally Championship.

Indeed, history will prove this, as Sainz was teammate with McRae for four more seasons, three at Ford and one at Citroën. During the Ford era, the situation was reversed in Catalunya in 1995, with Sainz finally honoring team orders and giving McRae victory in his rally at the 2000 Acropolis.

Characteristic: WRC Three Pete with McRae as Acropolis Master

Sadly, that victory didn’t give McRae another world title.McRae dropped to fourth in the championship, three points behind Sainz in the standings. The driver, Richard Burns, was crowned.

Sainz and McRae were WRC teammates at Subaru, Ford and Citroen

Photo courtesy: motorsport images

Neither McRae nor Sainz would win another world championship, but the wins continued as teammates repaired ties that turned into the precious friendship that flourished at Ford and Citroën.

In an interview on the Red Bull Rally YouTube channel, Sainz reflected on his relationship with McRae at Ford and Citroën, saying he had “the best time on the rally”. “After that we became really close friends and spent summers together. We talked about it a few times. [what happened in 1995] We were laughing after that.

McRae’s full-time WRC streak came to an end after 2003 after he lost the drive at Citroën with Sainz, who left the WRC as a regular at the end of 2004.

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That was the strength of their reborn relationship, and the pair spent time in each other’s companies outside the WRC. It was McRae who persuaded him to try the Dakar Rally.

“In fact, it was Colin that made me decide to make the Dakar like one summer when Citroën decided to leave Sebastian. [Loeb] Me and Colin sadly couldn’t drive and he wasn’t in the championship,” Sainz said.

“He decided to go to Dakar and the next summer he said to me: ‘Carlos, you have to go to Dakar. You will love it. It’s a race made for you.'” Thanks to Colin, I was able to race in Dakar.”

Since then, Sainz has won three Dakar Rally races and will be racing for Audi next year.

McRae is one of the main reasons Sainz is currently competing in the Dakar Rally

Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool The misunderstood WRC rivalry that made friendships

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