MARCH 29, 1999
McRae talks F1
"The test is not for fun," commented Ford's Martin Whitaker. "Colin is streets ahead of F1 drivers in terms of being a complete driver. You could put him in any car and he would be quick." Whitaker added that if McRae is going to switch to Grand Prix racing it will not be until the end of the 2000 season because the Scotsman has a two-year $10m contract with Ford to compete in the World Rally Championship. The 1995 World Rally Champion won his second victory for Ford this year last week in Portugal in the Ford Focus rally car.
McRae says that he has been thinking about a switch to F1 for a while but wants to see how he performs in a test before committing himself to a new career path. "If I am competitive then I must consider what I might be getting into," he said. "If I am committed, there is no reason why I couldn't drive in F1."
McRae has little left to prove in rallying. Although he has won the World Championship only once he has 18 wins to his name, which is only four less than the most successful rally driver of all time, Carlos Sainz. With the competitiveness of the Ford Focus, McRae could add another 10 victories and two World Championships to his tally by the end of the 2000 season.
By then he will be 32. This may seem old for a modern Grand Prix driver, but it is worth pointing out that Damon Hill did not start his F1 career until just before his 32nd birthday in 1992. There is commercial logic in Ford pushing for McRae in F1. Rallying is much more popular than F1 in Asia and receives a lot more coverage.