English rally driver Richard Burns sadly passed away 25 November 2005. Born in Reading, Berkshire on 17 January 1971. He started driving at the age of eight, in his father’s old Triumph 2000. At eleven Burns joined the Under 17 Car Club, where he became driver of the year in 1984. Two years later Burns drove a Ford Escort at Churchill’s Welsh Forest Rally School near Newtown, Powys for the day and from that moment on he knew what he wanted to do. He joined the Craven Motor Club in Reading where his talent was spotted by rally enthusiast David Williams. In 1988 he entered his first rallies in his own Talbot Sunbeam. The car was too basic to make much impression and in 1989 he had to borrow other competitors cars in order to progress, he also rallied the stages of Panaround, Bagshot, Mid-Wales, Millbrook, Severn Valley, Kayel Graphics and the Cambrian Rally. In 1990 he joined the Peugeot Challenge in a Peugeot 205 GTI & got his first taste of a World Rally Championship event in Great Britain as a prize for winning the Peugeot Challenge that year. In 1991 Burns met Robert Reid,who became his co-driver for the next 12 years. For 1992 Williams bought Burns a Group N Subaru Legacy and with the support of Prodrive won the National Championship. Prodrive saw him as a promising driver for the future.In 1993 he joined the Subaru Rally Team for the British Rally Championship alongside Alister McRae, driving a Subaru Legacy. He won four rounds, the Vauxhall Sport, Pirelli, Scottish, and Manx International, and became the youngest ever British Champion. He finished seventh on that year’s snowy RAC Rally. In the wake of his 1993 success, Burns remained with Subaru for the 1994 and 1995 seasons, contesting the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, which included the New Zealand and Australia Rallies, and also his home WRC round. His best result was third on the 1995 RAC Rally, behind team mates Carlos Sainz and winner and world champion Colin McRae. During 1996 he drove for Mitsubishi Ralliart at international level, winning the 1996 Rally New Zealand in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo . In 1998, he won the Safari Rally, piloting a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. He also won that year’s Rally Great Britain & the constructors’ Championship went to Mitsubishi.
Burns moved to the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Team under David Richards for the 1999 season, joining Juha Kankkunen and Bruno Thiry as part of the factory team driving Subaru Impreza WRCs, replacing Colin McRae. Burns worked his way to a career high of second place in the drivers’ standings. He also led Subaru to second in the constructors’ series behind the Toyota team. He was a long-time contender for the title in 2000, but crashed out on the Rally Finland in mid-season handing the championship to Marcus Grönholm who had been competing in his first year as a full-time factory driver. Sadly Burns failed to finish the 2001 Monte Carlo Rally or the 2001 Swedish Rally, although he finished Fourth in Portugal and second in Argentina and Cyprus behind Ford’s Colin McRae. Burns won his first and only individual rally victory of the season in New Zealand, Burns then finished second on the Rally Australia. Burns’ finished the 2001 Rally of Great Britain in third place behind Peugeot duo Marcus Gronholm and Harri Rovanpera after his two main rivals for the Championship,Carlos Sainz and Colin Mcrea both crashed out enabling him to become the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship. When Richard passed the finishing line at the final stage of the final rally in 2001, Burns uttered words thought to be paying tribute to his codriver Robert Reid: “You’re the best in the world”. To commemorate the title success, Subaru produced a special edition of the Subaru Impreza in the UK called the RB5. Burns joined Peugeot for the 2002 season, but could not match the pace of team-mates Marcus Grönholm and Gilles Panizzi . Burns rejoined Subaru, for the 2004 season. However, In November 2003 Burns suffered a blackout while driving with Ford driver Markko Märtin to the rally. He was withdrawn from the event and was later diagnosed with an astrocytoma, a type of malignant brain tumour. He had Treatment during 2004 followed by surgery in April 2005 which was described as “very successful”. However the tumour could not be completely destroyed. On August 2005 a fan day was made, where his fans were invited to see his private car collection, but he was unable to drive himself so his co-driver Robert Reid drove his private cars on his behalf.
Late on Friday, November 25, 2005, four years to the day after winning the World Rally Championship, Burns died in Westminster, London, aged 34, after having been in a coma for some days as a result of a brain tumour. The British television show Top Gear, well known for its irreverent attitude toward most celebrities, aired a tribute to Burns during the December 4, 2005 show. The host, Jeremy Clarkson, said that “the news has been completely dominated, as far as we’re concerned, by the sad death of Richard Burns. Burns had previously appeared on Top Gear twice, once touting rallying as more interesting and influential than Formula One, and then test-driving the Peugeot RC. A memorial service for Burns was held at St Luke’s Church, Chelsea on Thursday 22 December 2005, with readings from BBC TV’s Jeremy Clarkson and Steve Rider, and a tribute paid by one of Burns’ closest friends, photographer Colin McMaster. Subaru also paid tribute to Burns at Castle Combe in 2006, when over 50 Subaru Impreza RB5s took to the track, including the RB5 number #001 driven by Alex Burns, Richard’s father.During the 2006 Goodwood Festival of Speed, a charity was founded in his name with a purpose to “inspire and support people with serious injury and illness”, named RB Foundation. The foundation also raises money for the Michael Park Fund, which deals with improving safety in motorsport events.Subaru released a special edition Impreza WRX STI in 207 – the RB320 – in memory of Burns.