Richard Burns

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Richard Burns

Richard Burns (left) at the final checkpoint for the 1999 WRC Rally of Great Britain.
World Rally Championship record
Nationality Flag of England English
Active years 1990 - 2003
Teams Subaru, Mitsubishi, Peugeot
World rallies 104
Championships 1 (2001)
Wins 10
Podium finishes 34
Stage wins 277
Points 351
First world rally 1990 RAC Rally
First win 1998 Safari Rally
Last win 2001 Rally New Zealand
Last world rally 2003 Rally Catalunya

Richard Burns (January 17, 1971 – November 25, 2005) was an English world champion rally driver, who topped the World Rally Championship scoresheets in 2001 having wound up runner-up in both 1999 and 2000. He was born in Reading, Berkshire, England.


  • 1 Career
    • 1.1 Pre-WRC
    • 1.2 WRC
      • 1.2.1 1996-1998: Mitsubishi
      • 1.2.2 1999-2001: Subaru
      • 1.2.3 2002-2003: Peugeot
      • 1.2.4 WRC Victories
  • 2 Death
  • 3 See also
  • 4 External links



He started driving in a field near his house at the tender age of eight, in his father's old Triumph 2000. At eleven Richard joined the Under 17 Car Club, where he became driver of the year in 1984. Just two years later his father arranged a trip to Jan Churchill's Welsh Forest Rally School near Newtown, Powys where Richard drove a Ford Escort for the day, and from that moment on Richard knew what he wanted to do. He badgered his father into letting him join the Craven Motor Club in his home town Reading where his talent was spotted by rally raconteur and enthusiast David Williams. He rallied the stages of Panaround, Bagshot, Mid-Wales, Millbrook, Severn Valley, Kayel Graphics and the Cambrian Rally.

In 1990 he joined the Peugeot Challenge after David Williams bought Richard a Peugeot 205 GTI and where he got his first taste of a World Rally Championship event in Great Britain. In 1991 Richard met Robert Reid, the man who was to become his co-driver for the next 12 years. This was one of the longest partnerships ever in Rallying.

In 1993 he joined the Subaru Rally Team for the British Rally Championship alongside Alister McRae where he won four rallies on the Vauxhall Sport, Pirelli, Scottish, and Manx International stages delivering Richard the title of the series' youngest ever champion that year.


1996-1998: Mitsubishi

Main article: Mitsubishi Motors
See also: Ralliart

1996 saw an opening with Mitsubishi at international level, seized upon with sufficient vigour to guide Burns to victory on that year's Rally New Zealand - albeit then, only a fixture within the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. Even so, the fending off of such calibre competition as works-backed Subaru heavyweights Kenneth Eriksson and Piero Liatti only added gloss to an increasingly fervoured reputation. Come 1998, he had won his maiden World Rally Championship event on the treacherous stages of the Safari Rally, piloting a Mitsubishi Carisma GT.

1999-2001: Subaru

Main article: Subaru
See also: Prodrive

1999 culminated in a more substantial championship showdown, Burns working his way to second place in the standings - and adding to his win tally, despite being upstaged by virtue of a team order mix-up on the Rally Argentina by fellow Subaru works driver Juha Kankkunen. He was a long-time contender for the title in 2000, but crashed out in Finland in mid-season handing the momentum to eventual champion, and future team-mate, Marcus Gronholm. Even so, a stirling comeback from the lower reaches of the top thirty to win on the season-ending Rally of Great Britain was sufficient to keep the Burns name well entrenched within public conscience.

The 2001 rally season began inauspiciously for Burns - neither of the season curtain raisers, the Monte Carlo Rally or the Swedish Rally, yielded points scores, placing in peril before it had began, the Englishman's title bid. A sturdy fourth place in a rain-drenched Portugal kicked his campaign into action prior to second place finishes on the arresting gravel of Argentina and Cyprus, on both occasions to Ford Motor Company's Colin McRae. Nonetheless, both the Scotsman and Monte Carlo victor Tommi Makinen were later to hit upon snags of their own - and, one victory over McRae later, this time in New Zealand, on Sunday November 25, 2001, Burns became the first Englishman to win the World Rally Championship. Richard drove his Subaru Impreza to third place in the Rally Of Great Britain. When Richard passed the finishing line at the final stage of the final rally in 2001 the famous words popped out of Richard's mouth paying tribute to his codriver Robert Reid: "You're the best in the world". Subaru produced a special edition of the Subaru Impreza in the UK called the RB5[1][2]. A messy legal battle ensued for the Englishman's services for 2002, from which fresh suitors, 2000 and 2001 Manufacturers' Champions Peugeot emerged victorious.

2002-2003: Peugeot

Main article: Peugeot

The existing tally of ten WRC triumphs, however, was not to be added to, with the quest for a second world title equally fruitless for Burns. He cobbled together a fine title challenge for much of 2003 - a feat which did not convince him to remain at the wheel of the 206 WRC. The gloomy prospect of a continued winning drought with the Frenchmen left Burns poised to rejoin Subaru for the second time for the 2004 season, the ploy being to couple him with the eventual 2003 title winner, Norway's Petter Solberg. In November 2003, however, with the Englishman heading to the season-ending Wales Rally GB still in the frame to duke it out for that title, Burns suffered a blackout while driving to the rally. He was withdrawn from the event, and thus the title fight, and duly diagnosed with an astrocytoma, a type of brain tumour. He did have a brief stint out of hospital in summer of 2004, only to be made to return, undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as well as surgery in April 2005 that was described as "very successful".

WRC Victories

 #  Event Season Co-driver Car
1 Flag of Kenya 46th Safari Rally Kenya 1998 Robert Reid Mitsubishi Carisma GT Evo 4
2 Flag of United Kingdom 54th Network Q Rally of Great Britain 1998 Robert Reid Mitsubishi Carisma GT Evo 4
3 Flag of Greece 46th Acropolis Rally of Greece 1999 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
4 Flag of Australia 12th Telstra Rally Australia 1999 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
5 Flag of United Kingdom 55th Network Q Rally of Great Britain 1999 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
6 Flag of Kenya 48th Sameer Safari Rally Kenya 2000 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
7 Flag of Portugal 33º TAP Rallye de Portugal 2000 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
8 Flag of Argentina 20º Rally Argentina 2000 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
9 Flag of United Kingdom 56th Network Q Rally of Great Britain 2000 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC
10 Flag of New Zealand 31st Propecia Rally New Zealand 2001 Robert Reid Subaru Impreza WRC


Late on Friday, November 25, 2005, four years to the day after winning the World Rally Championship, Burns died at the age of 34, after having been in a coma for some days as a result of a brain tumour. His death was overshadowed by the much covered death on the same day of footballer George Best.

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." After playing a montage of Richard Burns footage, Clarkson, who lived near Burns, shared an anecdote about Burns playing video games with his 7-year old son and commented, "He was just such a nice guy. I'm going to miss him...badly." No other motoring news was announced.

A memorial service for Burns was held at St Luke's Church in 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).

Subaru has announced a special edition Impreza WRX STI for 2007 - the RB320 - in memory of Burns. It features a 320 bhp (240 kW) Prodrive Performance Pack, Prodrive developed suspension, and sports spring kit. Proceeds will go to the Richard Burns Foundation, in support of individuals suffering serious injury or illness.

His legacy is still remembered by many with the Scottish band Travis dedicating their album, The Boy With No Name, to his memory.

See also

  • Richard Burns Rally, the video game starring Richard Burns.
  • List of notable brain tumor patients
  • Under 17 Car Club
  • RB5 Owners Club
  • RB320 Owners Club
    • BBC Sport:
      • Richard Burns biography
      • Burns diagnosed with brain tumour
      • Burns surgery 'very successful'
      • Burns' death announced
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