LONDON - Colin McRae, whose fascination with cars grew into an obsession that led him to 25 wins in a World Rally Championship career, was killed in a helicopter crash along with his 5-year-old son and two others, police said Sunday. He was 39.
McRae was piloting the helicopter, which he owned and was licensed to fly, when it crashed Saturday in a wooded area near his home.
McRae competed in the World Rally Championship from 1987 until 2004, becoming champion in 1995. He also took part in the Paris to Dakar rally, the Le Mans 24 hour race, the Race of Champions and the X Games.
McRae also lent his name to a best-selling computer game, but it was his flamboyant driving style that earned fans in all types of motorsport and lifted the profile of rallying in Britain.
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"He was really daring, always pushing it further," Formula One driver Heikki Kovalainen said.
"I always liked his attitude. It was maximum attack always and he had some big rolls sometimes. Every time he had one, though it was like: 'Oh well, it's just a roll,' and he just carried on."
Two other people also died in the crash - 6-year-old Ben Porcelli and 37-year-old Graeme Duncan. The aircraft was badly burned, making it impossible for police to immediately identify the occupants.
The son of five-time British rally champion Jimmy McRae, Colin McRae was competing on motorbikes by age 7. He competed in his first rally in 1985, but qualified as a plumber while he built his racing career, which kicked off when he became the British rally champion in 1991 and 1992.
"There was never a minute when he didn't try 100 percent and, of course, we had lots of accidents," said David Richards, who owned the Prodrive team that McRae competed with when he won his world title.
"And it is with great irony that, with all the accidents he had in rally cars that he walked away from unscathed, this happens in a helicopter."
He lifted the world title in 1995, and was runner-up in 1996, 1997 and 2001. He won 25 races in a World Rally Championship career that ran from 1987 to 2004. He made intermittent appearances on the WRC circuit until 2006.
"I didn't set goals as I went along," McRae told Autosport Magazine in January. "I just wanted to be quick as possible and win as much as possible."
McRae spent 2006 working on an auto camp in Are, Sweden, which he wanted to become the world's premier driving center. He also took part in a rally contest at the X Games over the past two years, including last month's event in Carson, Calif.
In the 2006 event, McRae flipped his Subaru, tearing a wheel off the car but still finished second.
McRae's success on the rally circuit led to a computer game "Colin McRae Rally," first released in 1998, which is now found on PlayStation, Game Boy, Xbox and PSP platforms.
McRae received an MBE award in 1996 from Queen Elizabeth II. He was married and also has a daughter.