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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 September 2007, 19:29 GMT 20:29 UK
Tributes to rally champion McRae
McRae service of celebration poster
The service was a celebration of Colin McRae's life

Thousands of people have lined the streets of Lanark to pay tribute to former World Rally champion Colin McRae, who died two weeks ago.

A Celebration of Life service was held for Mr McRae, 39, who died with his five-year-old son Johnny, and two family friends, in a helicopter crash.

The service took place at St Nicholas Church in Mr McRae's home town.

Stars from the motoring world including F1 driver Damon Hill and Mr McRae's co-driver Nicky Grist attended.

About 700 people inside the church for the service, led by the Reverend Alison Meikle, which was relayed to thousands outside via large screens erected on the high street.

Short life

The service included personal tributes from friends and colleagues, poetry, music and a special film featuring highlights of Colin McRae's racing career.

Police estimated as many as 15,000 people had gathered in the street directly outside the church.

But just before 1600 BST, the crowd fell silent as a lone piper played Flower Of Scotland.

Mr McRae's widow Alison, daughter Hollie and parents Margaret and Jimmy were piped into the church.

During the service, the minister said: "The families have been an inspiration to everyone.

"Two weeks ago, Lanark was struck with silence: a terrible silence bought at a monstrous price.

"We will remember Johnny who was so much like his dad. We are here to celebrate the short life of a mischievous boy who loved speed, like his dad.

Fans outside the McRae service
Fans were moved by the emotional tributes at the service

"We are also celebrating Colin's life, a supremely successful life. He has become a Scottish legend but he was a down-to-earth legend."

David Richards, the racing mogul who signed Mr McRae at the start of his rallying career, spoke of his fond memories of the rally driver.

He said: "Everyone today will remember Colin in their own very unique way.

"He was the youngest winner in almost every championship in which he competed."

Mr Richards said that Mr McRae "mellowed" after his children were born but never lost the daredevil style which he took with him when he drove.

He added: "Colin once said to me 'the cosmetics of the car don't matter to me. As long as its wheels are still facing the right direction we have to keep trying'."

Mr Richards described Mr McRae, who found worldwide fame with a rally driving computer game, as a "superman-like driver" with a "diverse style".

I believe he was the most comical and loving boy I have ever met
Suzie Hall
Johnny's primary school teacher

He added that despite his fame Mr McRae always found time for his fans.

Mr Richards said that Mr McRae was a very competent pilot and said that his meticulous and cautious approach to flying, to him was a sign of how he had matured.

He read out a number of tributes from Mr McRae's website which had over half a million messages left on it since the accident.

The crowd outside the service were encourage to sing along to Johnny McRae's favourite song, Islands In The Stream, which was played before his headteacher, Mrs Neilson, shared some moments from Johnny's time at Underbank Primary School.

She said: "He gave it 110%. "He certainly was following in his dad's footsteps. He had real charm."

Suzie Hall, Johnny's class teacher at Underbank Primary School, Lanark, paid tribute to him.

She said: "Every time I think of Johnny, a smile comes over my face. I believe he was the most comical and loving boy I have ever met.

"He was a little boy who loved to explore everything through touching it and playing with it."

Colin McRae's brother Stuart McRae is pictured with Alison McRae and her daughter Hollie
Mr McRae's wife Alison, daughter Hollie and brother Stuart arrive

A short video of Johnny having family fun on the ski slopes and some footage following his father's driving career were then played on two giant video screens.

Then, Ari Vatanen, a friend, team-mate and former rally champion, read a poem entitled Risk.

Before that he said: "The whole of Scotland is proud of their own boy, Colin."

He then recalled their first meeting when a young McRae joined him for a test drive, but quickly ended up rolling down a hill.

He said: "Colin and I sharing a car is a recipe for disaster. Our driving style was partly what made us soul mates. We were similar.

Private funeral

"There was trust, respect and friendship. We lived our lives flat out."

The hymn Highland Cathedral was then sung before Rev Alison Meikle gave the benediction.

More video footage of stars from the motoring world paying tribute to Mr McRae was then relayed to the crowd.

Colin McRae died along with his son when the helicopter he was piloting came down in Jerviswood near their home on Saturday 15 September.

Family friends, Graeme Duncan, who was 37, and six-year-old Ben Porcelli also lost their lives.

Formula One legend Sir Jackie Stewart and Rangers captain Barry Ferguson were among about 200 mourners who attended a private funeral for the McRaes earlier this week.

Father and son made their final journey together in the same coffin.

Hear from Colin McRae's fans

In pictures: Colin McRae service
30 Sep 07 |  In Pictures
Fans turn out for 'full throttle' legend
30 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Funeral for McRae family friend
28 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Family farewell to McRae and son
26 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Family tribute to McRae and son
16 Sep 07 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
Magical McRae
16 Sep 07 |  Motorsport

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