“Mull is peppered with internationalstandard crews”
It’s shortly after 1900hrs on Friday. By Mull Rally standards it is a pleasant evening, although a squall has just blown in, coated the roads with moisture, and left in a hurry. We’re standing behind a dry stone wall about one mile into SS1, Mishnish Lochs, the 6.77mile blast from Tobermory to Dervaig that throws the crews straight into the heart of the action from the word go.
Our vantage point is at the end of a straight (well, straight-ish) that rises in the braking area for a tricky medium right-hander, then plunges to a tight left before climbing past Tobermory Campsite, our home for the weekend.
We’re close enough to the stage start to hear the cars accelerate away on the road out of Tobermory. We turn off our head torches and strain our ears for the sound of number one seed Calum Duffy. We don’t have to listen too hard – the 2.5-litre Millington engine in that Skoda Fabia is LOUD.
Then, in the space of a minute, the howling, white-light missile has stormed past, leaving us to watch the devilish glow of tail lights disappear among the trees.
With 150 stage miles to go, you’d imagine most competitors would be content to play themselves in gently on a night such as this. Not so. The Mull Rally comes but once a year, and for many drivers the island roads hold the same level of pressure-cooker excitement as experienced by a present-hungry eight-yearold on Christmas morning.
Some just can’t resist maximum attack from the get-go. On several occasions we hear cars accelerating, lights strafing the skyline and then… silence followed by distant shouts from which we deduce that the car in question has slithered off the road just a handful of corners into the stage, out of our sight.
The difficult left-hand turn in question is known as Bakery Corner, a reference to the nearby Island Bakery (the lemon melts made there are amazing, I’m told).
After an excursion into the muddy ditch at the corner, most cars rejoin, although one poor crew grind to a halt with axle damage: months of planning in tatters after less than a mile.
Others are less lucky for reasons not of their own making. The Mini Cooper of Brian and Joanne Watson coasts to a halt in front of us. If there’s scant consolation, it is that they too are based at Tobermory Campsite and their car is recovered and repaired in time to rejoin.
We watch the entire field pass by. What strikes me is the variety, not just of machinery but also of competitor. The entry list is peppered with international-standard crews, local heroes, wide-eyed novices and enthusiastic old-timers. Mull fever can strike at any age, and fortunately there is no cure.