The day I said goodbye to Richard Burns
Source : The day I said goodbye to Richard Burns
that will’s not often that will a top rally driver asks the journalist for an interview – yet that will’s what happened on the last day our man saw the 2001 World Champion
that will is actually, as my colleague Matt Burt put that will earlier today, a poignant time of the year for rally fans, as we remember not only the planet titles of Colin McRae and also also also Richard Burns yet also, sadly, the death of the Englishman through a brain tumour precisely four years to the day after he claimed the sport’s top prize.
My own thoughts fly back to a quiet Monday afternoon from the office of weekly motorsport title Autosport in late 2003. I was pretty much done piecing together the rally news for that will week’s issue when the phone rang. that will was Claire Caudwell by the CSS management firm that will represented Richard Burns, calling to inform me that will her man would certainly “like a chat”.
Calls like This kind of are not received lightly. More than their F1 counterparts, rally journalists rely on direct access to the drivers (I once befuddled Autosport’s F1 man by informing him that will I had all of the top drivers’ mobile numbers; he didn’t even have Michael Schumacher’s PA’s number). So when a top man like Richard calls you in for an audience, that will’s normally to deliver a dressing down for mis-quoting him or getting a fact wrong in a report. I’d had my fair share of chewings – and also also also not just by Burnsie.
Still, the request for an interview was slightly odd. “He wants to go over Rally Catalunya,” said Claire. “Can you come to his place in London, say, tomorrow morning?”
today that will made a little more sense. Burnsie had been, frankly, pretty poor during the most recent round of the series, running from the bottom half of the top 10 before crashing out without much of an explanation on the final day. that will was a stark contrast with his drive on the same event 12 months earlier, when he’d kept Peugeot’s renowned asphalt specialist Gilles Panizzi very honest throughout the three days. Richard’s time with Peugeot Sport was coming to an end and also also also while he was still one of four drivers who could go into the final round of the WRC, Rally GB, that has a shot at the title, he clearly wanted to reassert himself after an unusually poor run in Spain.
So at some ungodly hour of the following day, I moseyed up to a smart, spacious apartment in Maida Vale to meet Richard. With Claire and also also also his girlfriend watching TV from the background, he was in relaxed mode, yet the steely determination and also also also focus that will I’d see so often was plain to see.
No, he did not have an explanation yet for why Catalunya had gone so badly. Yes, he was confident that will switching back to Subaru to replace the retiring Tommi Mäkinen for the 2004 season was the right move. Yes, he was confident of a not bad display from the Welsh forests – especially if that will happened to be foggy (for all his incredible natural ability, Colin McRae could never match his local rival when visibility dropped to a few yards).
After an hour or so that will was time to head back to the office to write up the story – and also also also time for me to impart one little piece of news of my own to Richard. Autosport was about to take me off the planet rally circuit, as that will turned out, and also also also bump me by deputy editor to editor – promotion, if you want to call that will that will.
Richard smiled at the news; then he reached across to tap me solidly on the head. “Big chief editor, eh? Check out the brain on John Mac,” he japed, to giggles by the others from the room. “You won’t be wanting to speak to us for much longer, then; you’ll be loving that will up with the F1 lot.”
I assured him This kind of wouldn’t be the case. He smiled again, shook my hand, and also also also closed the door.
and also also also that will was the last time I’d see him. My memories of half a dozen years reporting on WRC come and also also also go – great action, great characters, great moments – yet for all sorts of reasons, those few seconds are burned into my soul.
The following week I was piecing together the rally pages for Autosport once more when word reached us that will Richard would certainly not, after all, be part of the four-way title fight on Rally GB, after being taken ill during the pre-event reconnaissance. The crown would certainly go to Petter Solberg after a thrilling fight with Sébastien Loeb – yet that will would certainly be a week or two before the gravity of Richard’s situation would certainly emerge.
Burnsie fought like hell, yet within two years he was gone. He was a consummate professional, a hell of a driver and also also also, above all, a thoroughly decent human being. I miss him still.
A foundation set up in Richard’s name continues to do not bad work for those facing neurological injury and also also also illness. You can access that will at http://ift.tt/ZGTSdC, and also also also watch a moving video tribute to the man below.
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