THE phenomenon of time flying by is nothing new to Jimmy McRae. For once, it is the years, rather that the minutes and seconds, that he cannot believe have elapsed so quickly.

McRae’s career was defined by the stopwatch but today he will pause, reflect, and remember a day that is hard to forget. On November 22, 1995, his son, Colin, became World Rally Champion and a Scottish sporting legend.

For some time, it had been a matter of when, not if, McRae would become the first British driver to lift the title and the fact that he did it on home soil, with victory in the RAC Rally, made it all the more special. From his home in Lanark, he had gone on to conquer the world.

A season which had more twists and turns than the forest stages on which McRae honed his talents would end in the ultimate achievement. Team orders almost handed the title to Subaru team-mate Carlos Sainz, while championship hopeful Juha Kankkunen, alongside Didier Auriol and Armin Schwarz, was disqualified from the series after Toyota were caught using an illegal turbocharger in Spain, the scene of McRae’s angry outburst at his bosses as he was forced to relinquish a deserved win.

The Scot would not be denied, however. His victory in the RAC – finishing 36 seconds ahead of Sainz – followed a fifth-round win in New Zealand and his place in the record books was secured.

On the day of his crowning moment in the sport, his supporters will reminisce at his talent and achievement. Those that watched him from vantage points in forests, mountains or deserts only caught him for seconds at a time, but his legacy undoubtedly lasts a lot longer as the world of rallying marks the occasion a quarter of a century on.

“It is quite unbelievable, really, when you look back and think of the time that has gone in,” McRae Snr, himself a five-time British Rally Champion, told Herald and Times Sport. “It goes in a lot quicker the older you get!

“It was quite a mixed year. It didn’t start that great then it came and he was leading and then the team orders where he had to let Carlos win in Spain.

“He thought it wasn’t going to happen, but that made him all the more determined that he was going to beat Carlos in his home event in the RAC.

“It is quite remarkable that there is so much interest in it 25 years on. I think WRC are going to put a programme out as well and there was going to be a display of 25 cars that Colin drove.

“That couldn’t happen because of Covid unfortunately but it is really nice to think that, 25 years on, there is still the interest there and that people want to follow on from that.”

The images of McRae being preceded onto the ramp at Chester Racecourse by a piper, or of the Saltire flailing out of his window as he performed doughnuts in celebration, are as iconic as the blue Impreza – L555 BAT – that he masterfully manoeuvred through 28 stages with breath-taking skill and speed.

He had dropped a minute to Sainz after a puncture on day two, while a roadside repair to fix a suspension arm had the help from a partisan home crowd. Through the dank November days, McRae, with co-driver Derek Ringer alongside, produced an imperious performance worthy of the achievement he was destined for.

“I think the fact that it happened in Britain, it finished down in Chester, meant that a lot of his pals and Scottish people were there for it,” Jimmy said. “It was just unbelievable the people that were there and the cheering and the support.

“You could hear it in the stages, to hear the cheering above the noise of the car was something special.

“I don’t remember much about the celebrations! There was a fair party after it with all the Prodrive team and a load of Colin’s pals from Lanark.

“Guys that had karted with him, ridden bikes with him, loads of people turned up and it was quite a night.”

That performance in the RAC was McRae at his best. For a generation of motorsport fans, it was rallying at its best and the legacy McRae has left in the sport will last forever.

If it had wheels and an engine, McRae could perform in it and it was only a matter of time before the prodigious talent would showcase his skills on the world stage. Behind the wheel or under the bonnet, McRae was a master of his craft.

“I think we knew pretty early on that he had the speed,” Jimmy said. “He was a very flamboyant driver, and although he had that edge and he damaged a few cars now and again, which everyone at that level does, he had a great sense of mechanical sympathy with the car.

“He won the Safari Rally a few times, the Acropolis, Argentina, all the really rough, tough events. He had a canny act of getting the car to the finish in these rough events.

“We knew that, at some point, he would be Champion. I think he would have won it the year before if it wasn’t for engine problems and he would have won it a couple of times after that. We knew it would come sooner or later.”

The tale of McRae’s rise and rise was an inspiring one that had a heart-breaking end. In September 2007, McRae would tragically die in a helicopter crash near his home alongside his five-year-old son Johnny and family friends Graeme Duncan and Ben Porcelli, aged six.

His famous line that ‘you’re here for a good time, not a long time’ perhaps encapsulated the life and career of a driver that operated beyond the limit more often than not but one who had a talent like few others.

The video footage of him in action – his feet and hands moving in a mesmerising synchronicity as the world outside is reduced to a blur – stands the test of time.

It was that style that made McRae such an entertainer behind the wheel, yet also a flaw that would deny him further success. He would lose the 1997 title to Tommi Makinen by a single point, while a spectacular crash four years later handed the championship to Richard Burns.

McRae would turn his hand to the Dakar Rally, Le Mans 24 Hours and X-Games in later years. He only had one WRC crown to his credit, but his name remains synonymous with the sport.

“One of the last ones was his fault when he had an accident with the Focus but a couple of times before that there were mechanical problems that robbed him of points,” McRae said. “Ideally he would have won two or three more Championships but to win that one meant a lot to him and the family,” Jimmy said. “I think he was proud to have the one but obviously he would have loved to have had more than that.

“There was still time because there was the possibility that he was going to join Prodrive again. There was that possibility but he was beginning to look at other fields, like building the R4 - which is a cheaper version of the modern rally car and a driver’s car - and he moved into other things in the end.”