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Watch The Most-Talented British Rally Driver of All Time Win At Home

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It’s the Scot Colin McRae who’ll pop into most peoples’ minds when you evoke World Rallying’s glory days, which for my money, runs from Group A’s peak in the early nineties through Sebastien Loeb’s first title in 2004. During that time, McRae was the most prominent, flamboyant and daring driver of the era. His bravery and bombast brought global fame, raising the profile of rallying to stratospheric heights.

But who was the most-talented Brit of the era? Those in the know will pick out a different name. Richard Burns. 

Here’s some proof: a recap of Rally Great Britain, the final round of the 2000 season in which Burns narrowly finished second in the title to two-time champion Marcus Gronholm.

It had been a nail-biter up to that point, the championship split narrowly between Burns in second and Gronholm up front. To have a chance at securing a title, Burns had to finish first at his home rally and pray Gronholm dropped to the bottom of the podium. 

Burns rose under the pressure, capturing overall victory with trademark precision and aggression. Unfortunately for him, Gronholm also proved his mettle, doing just enough to secure the title.

This in-period video recap provides an overview of the final leg of the 2000 Rally GB. Burns fought back from an early mechanical issue to claim the lead, but Gronholm kept the haymakers coming, with the championships result see-sawing between the two as the action broke one way or another.

It’s worth sticking around to watch the sheer driving talent on display, too. Seven of the top ten drivers that season had won or would win a WRC title, including four-time champs Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen. Also worth mentioning are two unsung tarmac specialists of the era who feature prominently in this footage, Giles Panizzi and Francois Delacour. They deserve YouTube follow-ups of their own. 

In the end, five points separated Gronholm and Burns, though Burns finished one fewer rally over the course of the season. The next season, however, would be Burns’s. He and his Subaru finally took the title after consecutive second-place seasons, beating McRae, who finished second in the superior Ford Focus.

Burns always rode the edge a bit finer than McRae, who spent far more time sailing past it. That meant more highlight-reel glory for McRae, but also far more crashes. The pair each wound up with a single title, making this one of the great pub debates of our time.

Of course, Burns footage always feels bittersweet. His life was cut tragically short by a brain tumor in 2005, four years to the day after he’d won his first and only WRC championship title. We’re lucky to have bootleg footage like this so widely available, so that we might bask in the glory of Britain’s most-talented rally driver, whoever that actually was. 

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