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How Addictive Is The Tour Of Mull?

Apr 11,2006 by Steven Myers

I’ve only been to the rally (or even the island) once, in 2005, but already I believe it’s got me! As other articles have said, everyone has their own reasons for going and individual links to the rally. Mine are simple; for a few years I’ve heard bits of stories from the island through relatives and friends. It all seemed a bit exaggerated, a whole island being taken over by a rally? People standing in sideways rain just to watch 150 cars drive around the island roads? What was all the excitement about? So I persuaded my fiancée to come along and that’s where it started........

Even before we got to the island I was like a child at Christmas, eager to get there and find out what was going on. Every day I would check the 2300 club website for more news, disappointed when there was nothing new. I had maps of the island I new the rally route, which days used which roads, even the times of road closure! Over the top? Probably, but remember I’d never even been. How come I was so interested? This rally must be good, if it had me feeling like this already, how must the people who had been going for years be feeling!?

Anyway, we booked into a small B&B in Tobermory, the ‘capital’ of the island. We booked the ferry and still I was looking for things which would give me that little bit more knowledge of this weird and wonderful event!

October came! Finally, we traveled up in the early hours of Thursday morning and got the ferry late that evening. Arriving at the ferry port early we saw the earlier ferry being loaded, how many people would be on this island? I was expecting a small 10/20 car ferry but no; it’s a full on ferry booked up for the whole week solid! I sat in my car thinking to myself this must be a huge event! We saw the Amg TV crew in their Ford Puma filming the opening scenes of the video, Then we saw it! The first car; a thoroughbred Evo. Its bright red paint job shining in the evening sun, what a car! Don’t get me wrong I’ve been to rallies and have seen Evo’s, Subaru’s and many other rally cars before, but for some reason this was special, my first glimpse of The Tour of Mull!

We boarded the ferry, and went straight to the stern of the boat, the ferry doors closed, the engines started, the view of Oban in the slowly setting sun, every moment of this exiting trip has stuck in my mind, after the excitement of all this it finally sunk in, I was on my way, I would soon be able to answer all the questions in my mind.

When the View of Oban had gone, even better views appeared, the amazing sun set, a 360 degree picture, the reflection in the water, the orange glow from the surrounding mountains, it’s indescribable! But still no rally! Ok so I may be dragging this on, but I’m trying to relay my thoughts, and the way this event grabbed me from the first moment.

Mull appeared. First Duart castle perched on the cliff side, and as the ferry turned into the port we were off. It’s time, time to get back in the car and find out first hand why everyone loved this place so much! By now it was dark, and I mean dark. Not like England with the glow of street lights, this is natural a very rare occurrence. We drove up the main road from Craignure and turned off up to Dervaig to meet up with our competing crew! Then off to Tobermory to find our B&B. I nearly forgot, the roads they are why we were all here, the single track roads either excite you or scare you! It started off a little daunting but after a while when I relaxed they were good fun and I could see why the competitors love it, a naturally occurring rally track, no cones or tyres needed - these roads are windy enough, steep climbs, tight hairpins then short straights into more demanding corners! Perfect for the high speed precision driving expected of these cars and drivers.

As we arrived in Tobermory we struggled to see much evidence of the rally, the odd marshal’s car, people wearing their team jackets but that was all! Oh well I thought I’m sure morning will bring more to see!

That night we went for a short walk around Tobermory along the sea front and straight into the pub! Wow the second we stepped though the door it hit us, the immense support for this event, struggling to get to the bar, I over heard conversations all with the same theme, cars, drivers, fuel, tyres, times, tactics, everyone explaining how they, and there teams would be that second faster over the hill road, round Calgary bay and down the famous 22 miler. An early night called for we headed off back up the hill and to bed, for tomorrow it started, after months of anticipation.......

Morning arrived and with full breakfast inside us we set off down into Tobermory. Did morning bring more to see? Oh yeah, it was rally time! We got to the main car park where the 2300 club truck was and the start ramp along with a handful of cars waiting to head into the distillery for scuitenering. Each car accompanied by 3 or 4 crew all with there part to play.  Scooby’s, Evo’s and obviously the immaculate Mk2 escorts had arrived as the top seeded cars were being inspected.

Crews nervously awaited approval before heading off to various parts of mull for those last minute tweaks readying themselves for that evenings challenge. As the morning passed more and more people were about, with more cars and so much more to see and with the smell of high octane rally fuel in the air, could it get any better?

We  headed over to Calgary to meet up with the team we had come to support, almost immediately we had our own jobs, changing tyres, cleaning windows, organizing the service van and chase car, all the small jobs which enable smooth running of the evenings competition.

Having not been here before I decided to ask where to view the first nights stages. After asking a few people we decided on the hairpins between Tobermory and Dervaig on Stage 1. Off we went to get in place, the walk up from Dervaig to our chosen spot high on a hill side really took it out of us shows how fit we are! As the sun set, again, you can really see why tourists come here. As it got darker, more and more people gathered on the hill side over looking a series of tight hairpins, we could see faint lights from Dervaig and the back lighting from the marshals. Having lost any idea of time, we were sat on the grass in silence, not a sound from anyone. By this time we could only make out the hill tops against the night sky. A siren, red flashing lights popped up from out of no where, as they came closer we could make out a car stopping every so often at various points along the road, and driving off into the night, silence again.

At this point there were no cars on the road, it seemed like the whole island was waiting, for what was to come! The road closing car passed, and again silence, this was too much to bear all this waiting just adding to the already immense suspense. Here we go! Lights flickered from behind the distant hill tops, the faint sound of a car engine, growing stronger. Suddenly over the top of the hill came the blinding spot lights, and the sound of Car 0 speeding down the road round the twisting corners,  passing the marshals and away down the hill into the next tight right hand hairpin and off out of site into Dervaig at immense speed. Thinking to myself that that was not even a competing car, what could I expect next? Well I expected Calum Duffy in his blue escort.

Silence fell again. The anticipation building. The sound of highly tuned 2lt monsters rumbled though the night, again lights flickered over the hill tops, the rumble of engines and the cracks of anti-lag getting louder. I stood staring at the point where we saw the other cars appear. With a huge bang and Bright lights the first competing car flew over the top of the hill, the deep roar of power and bangs, cracks, high pitched screeches as this car came hurtling round the bends, over crests disappearing behind the undulating hills. It re-appeared again the same deafening noises, as brake lights shone and anti-lag blasted flames from the back of the car, which launched itself round the left turn down the hill into a tight right hand hair-pin. Then roaring out of sight! (But that was not Duffy unfortunately he had a mechanical problem and had to retire).

By this time I knew. I knew exactly why everyone spoke so highly of this event!

Over the hill came another car following the same route as its rival, the same thunderous roar, car after car hurtled past with just enough time between to appreciate the speed and skill of these drivers! I lost count of the cars in the excitement, but I knew a few cars had not made it to where we were spectating a few miles from the start. This goes to show just how unforgiving the roads of Mull can be! As the stage came to a close we walked back down the road, jumping to the side as lights shone from behind and another car flew past, its driver pushing, navigator encouraging and guiding the crew along the stage. As we got back to the car we heard news that the team car had safely reached the first service and was in the top 10, this put smiles on both of our faces. Back in the car heading towards Tobermory, all the way reminding myself that I’m not a rally driver (not yet anyway!). Deciding that we were too late to catch any other the other night’s stages we again headed to the pub, and by then it was clear. Why was Mull so addictive? Well for me it’s the excitement, the sense of belonging to an event that is so big on the Island but still small enough that you feel part of the events. For others it’s the challenge of competing, everyone has their own reasons, yet all sharing the same excitement for the sport and what this event brings!

I could go on trying to explain what it is like, but I’d still be no closer than my friends were when they told me about this special event. The only true way of knowing quite what all the excitement is about is to do exactly what I and many other people have done, get up to Mull for the rally and get involved!

I’m sat here writing this in April, already organizing my next trip to Mull in October, accommodation booked and time off work planned, I looked the other day at the 2300club site to find that a provisional route has been added, is this the start of yet another child like giddy build up to my second trip to mull?

Oh yes... and it definitely won’t be my last!

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