Belfast Telegraph

Meeke honoured to join all-star field for tribute to the great Colin McRae

 

By Sammy Hamill

Kris Meeke will join rallying's great and the good, including a dozen World champions, to pay tribute to the late Colin McRae in San Marino this weekend.

Everyone from current champion Sebastien Ogier to Walter Rohrl, Ari Vatanen and Sebastien Loeb are taking part in the annual Rally Legends event in the tiny Italian principality which this year marks the 10th anniversary of McRae's death in a helicopter crash.

For Meeke it is especially poignant, McRae being an early mentor who took him to live with his family in Scotland and championed his career.

In tribute, Meeke, the recent winner of Rally Catalunya, will appear in a Citroen Xsara WRC that McRae drove in 2003. Derek Brannigan, a member of his gravel crew, will co-drive.

"I was a huge fan of Colin growing up," recalled Meeke. "When I was 16, I saved up to go and see him drive at Rally Catalunya, little imagining I would one day win the same rally.

"After university I started working as an engineer at M-Sport, but I wanted to be a driver, and I was able to make my dream come true when I won a future rally star competition.

"My first season didn't go amazingly well, but Colin noticed me and took me under his wing. He helped me to improve, and then to get into the FIA Junior WRC. Even now he's probably the person to whom I am still the most indebted."

The McRae family will be in San Marino for the rally which will end on Sunday with Colin's Parade, featuring many of the 1995 World champion's rivals and the cars he drove.

Several Irish drivers are taking part, including ex-Tarmac champion Donagh Kelly in his Metro 6R4 and Frank Kelly and Ryan Barrett in Mk2 Ford Escorts.

Meanwhile, Ott Tanak is leaving M-Sport Ford to join Toyota in 2018. Second in the World Championship behind team-mate Ogier, Tanak has played a major role in helping Ford to near certain success in the Manufacturers' Championship.

The Estonian joins Jari-Matti Latvala, Esapekka Lappi and Juho Hanninen at Toyota.

Belfast Telegraph

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