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Colin McRae Rally, the first title in the series, was released for the PC and PlayStation platforms in January 1998 in the United Kingdom and in September 1999 in the United States. The game featured real cars and drivers from the 1998 World Rally Championship. Colin McRae's Subaru Impreza was featured on the game's cover.
Cars included in Time Trial (intermeditate mode) are: Subaru Impreza 22B - 4WD . 300BHP, Mitsubishi Lancer E4 - 4WD . 300BHP, Ford Escort WRC - 4WD . 290BHP, Toyota Corolla WRC - 4WD . 290BHP. Included on the Novice Mode (Front Wheel-Drive) are: Renault Maxi Megane - FWD . 250BHP, SEAT Ibiza Kit Car EVO2 - FWD . 230BHP, VW Golf GTI Kit Car - FWD 250BHP and Skoda Felicia Kit Car - FWD . 240BHP.
In Novice mode there are only 3 stages per rally, each followed by a Service Area, making easier to adjust the vehicle to the different conditions of each stage and repair the damage. Also the Novice Championship does not include Indonesia neither UK. Service Area adjustments included are: 1. Tyres (Slicks, Dry Grooves, Wet Grooves or Spikes); 2. Suspension (Soft, Medium or Stiff); Brakes (Rear Bias, Even or Front Bias); 3. Steering (Low, Medium or High sensitivity); 4. Gear-Ratio (Max speed, High speed, Balanced Speed, Good acceleration or Max acceleration). Changing the predefined setup will consume time: Tyres - 3'00", Suspension - 15'00", Brakes - 10'00", Steering - 12'00" and Gear-Ration - 20'00". The total time available in the Service area for setup and repair is 40'00". The bodywork is repaired automatically.
The game contains stages in eight countries; New Zealand, Greece, Monaco, Australia, Sweden, Corsica, Indonesia and the United Kingdom. The PC version also includes four unlockable tracks to which real-world locations are not attributed.
Apart from Colin McRae himself, and Travis Pastrana in Colin McRae: Dirt, and Pastrana, Ken Block, Mohammed bin Sulayem, Dave Mirra and Tanner Foust in Colin McRae: Dirt 2, this first edition of the game featured real-world drivers whereas all of the sequels used fictional competitors. Featured real-world drivers include Didier Auriol, Philippe Bugalski, Richard Burns, Juha Kankkunen, Piero Liatti, Alister McRae, Colin McRae, Harri Rovanperä, Carlos Sainz, Bruno Thiry, Oriol Gomez and Kenneth Bäcklund in the place of Tommi Mäkinen, who has his own rally game.