‘A bit of me dies when I think I won’t see him’ - daughter of Colin McRae speaks out about her loss
THE daughter of rally driver Colin McRae has written a touching tribute to her father and brother on the fifth anniversary of their deaths in which she says she “dies slowly inside” when she remembers the helicopter crash that killed them.
Hollie McRae, who was nine years old when the accident happened near the family home in Lanark, has talked for the first time about her loss in the foreword to a new book commemorating McRae’s life.
She revealed that she continues to gain strength and inspiration from memories of her father and brother, Johnny, but added: “A bit of me dies slowly inside every time I think that I won’t see Dad or Johnny again for the rest of my time on Earth.”
McRae was at the controls of the Eurocopter Squirrel when it crashed in trees on 15 September, 2007. He died alongside his son, passenger Graeme Duncan, 37, and six-year-old Ben Porcelli.
Hollie, 14, said she was unaware of her father’s status as a former world champion rally driver. “I feel proud that people want to write and read a book about my Dad, but I don’t care about the cameras, the fame or the publicity. It was the person he was around us that counted. The big, friendly family man.”
Hollie went on: “Johnny and I used to love it when Dad came home from rallies because he would always bring back a present for us.
“Now that I’m older, I’ve realised that I was wrong waiting for the presents to come home. I should have been waiting for Dad. The saying is true: ‘You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.’
“Dad told me to never give up and stand up for what I believe in. He also said that you only live once, so do what you want to do and don’t let others rule your life.”
McRae’s widow, Alison, has also spoken for the first time about how she broke the news to her daughter that her father and brother would not be coming back home. “On the day of the accident I just looked at wee Hollie and said to her: ‘You know, your Dad does not want us to be sad and miserable. So, for him, we’re just going to keep going, be happy and do what we can,” she said. “Here’s a wee girl who has her whole life in front of her. She’s lost her Dad and her wee brother and she doesn’t need to lose her mum as well. So you just have to get up and make life as normal as you can.”
Alison, who described her husband as “my one and only love”, revealed that he had struggled to come to terms with his career in top-flight racing coming to an end.
She said: “There was a big thing in Colin’s head that kept saying: ‘What am I going to do with my life now?’
“There was this part of him that just felt useless. He’d say: ‘Alison I can’t do anything apart from driving cars.’ I said: ‘Colin, you’re the best in the world. You try to explain that to a person who works in hospital – they would all strive to have your talent, your career’. He would reply: “You don’t understand, to me driving is so easy, it’s not like I’ve achieved something.’ He did struggle a bit with the whole retirement thing.”
Scottish motor sport legends David Coulthard, Sir Jackie Stewart and Dario Franchitti have also marked the anniversary by recalling memories of their friendship with McRae, who was posthumously inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Franchitti, the Bathgate-born racing driver, revealed that he received a text from McRae on the day of his funeral. The four-times US IndyCar series champion, who is married to actress Ashley Judd, recalled: “After the accident in 2007 I was coming back to Scotland for the funeral.
“I’d had my final race of the season in America the weekend before. When I got off the plane at Glasgow Airport I turned on my UK mobile and there were three messages. The third was from Colin wishing me luck in my last race. That stopped me in my tracks. I just couldn’t believe he was gone.”
The 39-year-old, commenting in a book which is dedicated to McRae’s life, added: “It was a privilege to have been caught up with Colin. There was never a dull moment and I’ll never forget him.”
Formula 1 star Coulthard claimed McRae’s boisterous sense of fun allowed them to triumph when they teamed up to represent Scotland at an international Race of Champions event in 2006.
He said: “The night before we retired to the bar and stayed there until the American team and its entourage were still present. Alison sang naughty songs, while Colin and I stumbled about and danced a Scottish jig of some description.
“The Americans were beaten before we even hit the track through a combination of disbelief at the language being used and fear that our dance was a warm-up for a serious bar brawl.
“I will always remember Colin for his infectious energy, his love of his family and his excellent motto: ‘We’re here for a good time, not a long time.’”
Stewart said: “Colin was much admired because his driving was so spectacular.”
A 16-day inquiry into the helicopter crash last year blamed McRae for the accident, claiming he had been carrying out unnecessary low-level manoeuvres and his flying had been “imprudent” and “unreasonable”. Sheriff Nikola Stewart also found that McRae did not hold a valid flying licence or a valid “rating” for the helicopter.• McRae: Rallying’s Most Spectacular Icon is published by Autosport and costs £4.99.
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