Investigators were last night sifting through the wreckage of Colin McRae's small helicopter to determine what caused the crash that killed the former world rally champion, his five-year-old son Johnny and another man and boy on Saturday. The Twin Squirrel aircraft, which hit the ground in woods close to McRae's 17th century mansion, Jerviswood House, near Lanark, just after 4.10pm, was engulfed in a fireball on impact.
Colin McRae endeared himself to fans of motorsports after becoming the first Briton to win the World Rally Championship driver's title in 1995. But in recent years, his achievements on the racetrack were increasingly outshone by a second career as the figurehead for a series of computer car-racing games.
Praised for its realism, the series has been a commercial and critical success since the first title, Colin McRae Rally, appeared in 1998. Promising "total mud-splattering, gravel-churning, off-road racing," the latest instalment, Colin McRae: DiRT, released last week was described in an Observer review as "an unbridled joy to play".
McRae participated closely in the development of the games, regularly roadtesting prototypes and providing designers with detailed briefings on car handling and race course design. Speaking before the 2000 release of the second game in the series, McRae said: "I have played lots of crap games. We wanted this one to be as realistic and as close to reality as possible."
Designer Guy Wilday said advice from McRae and his co-driver Nicky Grist were integral to the game's realism. "They're not just figureheads, they are very enthusiastic and a major part of the development team," he said. On his website, however, McRae admitted: "I'm not really a fan of computers. Yes, I can play DiRT on my X-Box 360 and I can just about access the internet, but as for the rest of it, much of it is a complete mystery to me."