MATT BURT

“Mull is pep­pered with in­ter­na­tion­al­stan­dard crews”

Motor Sport News - - Mull Rally -

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.

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