The McRae R4
Colin McRae was famed for his high intensity driving that lead him to huge success in world rally, but do you know the story of his last project?
Where did the inspiration come from?
Believe it or not, a Ford KA.
In 2003, whilst driving for Citroen, McRae visited DJM Motorsports workshop to see his Mk2 Escort they were building for him. During his visit he was fascinated by their DJM KA which was just a Ford KA with a load of tweaks and mods to make it more sporty.
The KA had a Sierra/Escort Cosworth YBT 4x4 engine producing 300bhp and 380lbt torque.
Whilst he was at DJM he got talking about problems he had with driving manufacturers cars and contracts, and so the idea was brought up that he could have his own car with no contracts to worry about, and so the R4 was and idea.
The Early Stages of Design
As the company had been nearing the end of the Mk2 escort build they used information they had taken from that project and used it to improve on the R4 project. The main factors for improvement being; weight and balance, engine, transmission and brakes, which would all help the car become and efficient all-round race car. Safety was a factor considered early on in the design and the decision was made to make the frame and chassis from steel.
The base car for the project was a Ford KA as it was the car that grabbed Colin's attention in the workshop and was also a car that was just the right size for the build and also something that the company had good experience with in the past, as we have seen from the DJM KA.
Once the initial design criteria was done there were many months of drawings and sketches along side initial designs for the final look of the car.
The final decision on the engine and transmission were to use the transmission from Colin's Mk2 Escort and there were to be two engines; the Millington 4cyl 2.5 litre was to be used for rally and a twin turbo V6 3.0 litre for track and road use. Once they got these they started on the bodywork with the base steel frame and installed the engine.
Once the main steel work was complete they enlisted the help of Codemasters to design the bodywork. Once the bodywork was designed they built a scale model of the R4 to create moulds for panels.
All of the bodywork was hand crafted and the team gave themselves 16-18 months to complete all designs and finalize all of the bodywork, this meant they had plenty of time to create each piece to perfection.
During the time spent on the build Colin visited the workshop a lot but whenever he was asked if he would like to help his reply would be “ the only overalls I wear are the racing variety “.
By the end of 2005 all designs were finished and most parts were ready, the team were ready for the final construction of the R4 prototype.
In spring 2006 the build was well on and Colin was approached by the organisers of Goodwood Festival of Speed where the car was booked to be on display, this gave the team a deadline of 2 months to finish the build to get it the Goodwood.
The final panels were fitted to the car to end the build just 2 days before the festival and the final car was proven very popular and it was the car everyone was talking about at the time.
In early 2007 the car was near finished final tests and was MSA logbooked and road legal, its registration number: R400 CMR.
A few months later and it was time to deliver the car to Colin at his home and he was delighted with the outcome as he raced around the back roads near his home.
The car was used to launch the 2007 Goodwood Festival as Colin performed doughnuts in front of Goodwood House. The car had multiple runs down the Goodwood rally run and was an instant hit with the crowds and even world race stars such as Peter Solberg who was rumoured to be eyeing up the first production R4 for himself.
The same year the R4 was showcased at Goodwood, Colin set the fastest time down the run with his Impreza WRC but it seemed as if he was driving the R4 considerably slower than his Imperza and when he was asked why he smiled and replied, “we don’t want to upset too many people too quickly!!”.
The cars development was discontinued after the tragic passing of McRae in September 2007 but it remains a small part of the champions legacy.