Ten years ago I was lucky enough to report on the World Rally Championship for the sport’s iconic newspaper, Motorsport News.
It was a great time to be covering rallying. There were lots of manufacturers running cars that were packed with clever tech that was fascinating, but which didn't stop the cars being driven very sideways. All this was taking place in spectacular locations, attracting loads of newspaper, magazine and television coverage. The WRC was big news and, best of all, at its heart were Colin McRae and Richard Burns.
At the time I was a bit caught up in it all to realise it wouldn’t last forever. From a work point of view it was manna from heaven to have two British drivers making headlines whether they won or crashed, but from a personal point of view – as an obsessive fan of motorsport, and especially British motorsport – it was even better.
Looking back now, it was as much a golden era for British involvement in the sport as it was for the sport itself. It was joyous to watch – and with the top of the sport in such rude health it seemed only natural that the success would drip down, offering opportunities for young drivers to come up through the ranks and take the places of McRae and Burns in time (indeed, Colin officially backed a driver, Kris Meeke, and Burns was always generous in offering help to up-and-comers).
Yet the youngsters haven’t come through (although Meeke’s incredible career resurrection in the Intercontinetal Rally Challenge could yet change that). The fact is that drivers gifted enough to become world champions don’t come along very often, and when a nation has two competing at the same time it is something to be savoured.
I reckon Formula One fans would do well to remember it, too. I don’t think for a second that F1 is going to drop from grace in the way the WRC has (how many people realise that Rally GB is this weekend?), but I do think we should revel in the glut of success currently being enjoyed by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
It won’t last forever, and their kind of talent doesn’t come along as often as we’d like to think. We’ve been fortunate before, with Nigel Mansell’s years of success being swiftly followed by Damon Hill’s. But don’t forget that we then waited 12 years for Hamilton to win the title.
To have two British drivers at the top of their game is a very special time indeed. Don't let the traditional British past time of knocking success spoil it.