Colin McRae (39) and his son Johnny (5) have been reported dead in a helicopter crash near the McRae home in Lanarkshire, Scotland, shortly after 4 PM local time. The helicopter burst into flames on contact, though, making identification difficult.
According to McRae's agent, Jean-Eric Freudiger, McRae had been piloting the, helicopter himself, with his son Johnny, as well as another adult and child, were also aboard. However, McRae's wife Alison and nine-year-old daughter Hollie were not, according to family friends per Freudiger.
Update, Sunday (Sept. 16)
On Sunday morning on September 16, the news of the death of McRae and his son were confirmed. There were two family friends with them who also did not survive. They are Graeme Duncan (37) of France and Ben Porcelli (6) from Scotland.
McRae has been recognized as an experienced helicopter pilot, and the 16th-century family home, Jervis House, is equipped with a helicopter landing pad.
McRae has been widely considered to be the most successful British rally driver ever, and the only one to date to win the coveted World Rally Championship title, in 1995.
"He was such a great character and will be sorely missed," expressed his long-time co-driver Nicky Grist per Sky News in Great Britain. "We won 17 world championship events together. Nobody ever wanted to be up against him. We used to drive to the max and push everything to the absolute limit. But when it came to socializing we had great fun as well."
In addition to the two British Rally Championship titles in the early 1990s, his active WRC career spanned from 1987 to 2003, primarily with the Subaru works team, with some one-off drives for Skoda and Kronos Citroen in 2005 and 2006.
He was born to a rallying family, his father, Jimmy, having won the British Rally Championship title five times. His younger brother, Alister, has also enjoyed some success, including the 1995 British Rally Championship title.
McRae and family have developed many friendships over the years, his wife Alison was his in his early career his navigator. One of their close friends was in Belgium competing in this weekend's Formula One race.
"He and Alison were good friends and I cannot imagine either without the other," commented David Coulthard. "He was fearless, flamboyant, blindingly quick in the car. He was very down to earth, matter of fact that he was so good. He had all the good Scottish traits."
The WRC champion and his brother would have been competitors in late October as the two were going to take on the cross country rally UAE Desert Challenge. McRae was listed for the BMW X-raid team after his debut with them in Spain recently. His younger brother launched his own team this year and has filed an entry for the UAE event.