My brother Eddie pointed this out to me today and I was thrown aback at the realization that it's already been seven years since we lost Colin McRae.
In motorsport, fate tends to take our heroes away from us through the very way they gained their iconic stature. It's the tragic truth but in their sacrifice, new levels of immortality are reached.
NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, Ayrton Senna lost his life in a crash while leading the 1994 Formula One San Marino Grand Prix, Australian racing icon Peter Brock struck a tree during the 2006 Targa West rally, IndyCar star Dan Wheldon was taken from us just months removed from his second Indianapolis 500 triumph ... The list goes on and on.
What makes it sting so much
If these titans are going to be taken from us before their time, it's best that they are taken while doing the very thing that made them who they are. That, and who he took with him is what makes the death of Colin McRae sting so much ... Even seven years later.
On September 15th, 2007, Colin was flying his helicopter near Lanark, Scotland and was also in the process of securing a ride for the 2008 WRC season. Riding with him was his five-year-old son Johnny and two family friends (Graeme Duncan and Ben Porcelli).
For unknown reasons, the chopper deviated from its intended path and struck some trees. The helicopter went down ... All four souls were lost.
It's difficult to take in
It was hard for me to understand as a young kid (yes, I'm only 20-years-old now). I could comprehend the loss of life, but I couldn't come to grips with the death of Johnny. I was under the childhood impression that parents can protect you, no matter what. This, it just didn't make sense to me.
We can take solace in the fact that Colin was already immortalized, he had already left his mark. There are tribute rallies all over the place for him and plaques/statues in various locations. But what about Johnny? He was never given the chance to leave his mark, to carry on his father's legacy.
His life had just begun and seven years later, I feel ashamed that I couldn't remember his name without using Google today. I was stunned and upset with myself really. How could I forget his son's name? That is the part of this that is so difficult to take in and move on from. The sons of fallen fathers are always there to pick up the torch and heal the wounds (see Dale Jr.), but that's not the case here.
Rattled to the core
This tragedy rattled all those within the rallying community right to the very core. McRae was the 1995 WRC champion and had collected 25 victories throughout his impressive career. The loss of his five-year-old son is something that took a number of people multiple years to come to terms with.
On the helicopter that day, we lost a legend, we lost the future, and most of all, we lost four souls. Remember them all, and unlike me, don't forget the name Johnny McRae.