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Colin McRae Rally 3's main racing mode is the Championship mode. In it, you race as Colin McRae to become the Sparco Rally Champion in his renowned 2002 Ford Focus RS WRX. The Championship Mode unfolds across 3 seasons each having 6 rally events. Each rally has a specific event sheet that is followed and goes as follows:
- Day 1 - Shakedown Day: This is a practice event. Used mainly to tune cars according to the track's setup.
- Day 2 - Stages 1-3 of Rally: The first racing event. Split into 3 sections, each one separate from the next. Between stages, a progress report is shown to display the car's condition.
- Day 2 - Service Area: This is a pause between days to fix the car and look at progress reports for competitor position and times. Information can be seen for the next 3 stages, though no Shakedown day is available for said stages.
- Day 3 - Stages 4-6: These stages play the same as the 3 previous stages.
- Day 3 - Service Area: Same as the Day 2 Service Area, this also gives you an opportunity to view information on the Super-Special Stage.
- Day 3 - Super-Special Stage: At the end of all stages, the Super-Special Stage takes place at night which is a parallel race with a randomly chosen CPU. The stage has two tracks parallel to each other and cross each other at any given point in the race.
The game takes place across several different countries. These countries each have their own specific ground and weather conditions that affect gameplay. Weather is also a varying factor. These countries, in no particular order, are Spain (Concrete/Tarmac), Australia (Dirt/Gravel), UK (Gravel/Mud/Wet Tarmac), Japan (Wet Tarmac), USA (Gravel/Tarmac), Finland (Gravel), Sweden (Snow) and Greece (Gravel).
The cars featured in the game are all part of official WRC rally teams. Certain cars can be unlocked as special vehicles though they are still rally cars by nature. These cars are:
- Ford Focus RS WRX
- Subaru Impreza WRX
- Mitsubishi Lancer VII
- Citroën Xsara Kit Car
- Citroën Saxo VTR
- MG ZR
- Ford Puma
- Fiat Punto
- Metro 6R4 (Unlockable)
- Ford RS200 (Unlockable)
- Subaru Impreza 44RD (Unlockable)