I’ve been very fortunate to have been given a number of great opportunities within the world of motorsport and recently I was given another.
Having had a number of days holiday saved up and work keen on me to use them up before the end of the year I was left wondering what to do with them. Cat Lund got in touch and asked if I was interested in being part of their chase crew for the immanent Mull Rally. Although I do like Rallying I’ve never been to a rally before and it was a great opportunity to get firsthand
experience of one as part of a team, so naturally I jumped at the chance.
Cat, the co-driver along with driver Andy Rowe were competing in the Mull Rally for the first time in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo3 which has seen them to great success over the past four years and it was to be the car’s last hoorah before being replaced. Being a new rally to the pair a lot of work was needed to be put in on pace notes etc so we headed up on Sunday night to allow plenty of time to reccie the stages.
Having stayed overnight and picking up the mechanic Dan Green, we arrived on Monday. After issues with the Initial accommodation plans, Richard at Crannick Farm was able to come to our rescue at the last minute for which we were all very grateful for. With our new accommodation came a great spot which served as a service area for the car which was ideal and with Richard’s fantastic hospitality we settled in well.
Whilst Andy and Cat spent the next few days out and about perfecting pace notes and checking the stages, Dan and myself were left to sort out the Car. Well, as I know pretty much nothing about mechanics, Dan did most of that side whilst I did odds and sods like sorting out the onboard camera, cleaning wheels and bodywork and as I like to call it, applying race tape to strategic areas on the bodywork etc. We also had to go and check out the services areas for the rally and the emergency service points where we would need to refuel the car. As well as that we needed to get some mud flaps too. So we spent a long time driving around the island which is deceptively large and only has a few roads which, with the exception of the stretch between Salen and Craignure and a few miles into Tobermory are all single track with passing places. Mud flaps were exceedingly hard to come by and almost at the point of giving up on our quest to find some and having asked almost every Mull resident where we might find any, we were tipped of about a guy who repairs Land Rovers. After eventually arriving at said yard, we managed to acquire a pair of Land Rover mud flaps which eventually proved to be a great fit to the rear. The front mud flaps were slightly less desirable though as those had been fashioned with a pair of car mats. But they still did the job.
Friday morning soon came round which meant heading to Tobermory for scrutineering. With 117 entries ranging from Subaru’s and Mitsubishi’s to Mini’s and more Mark2 Escorts you could shake a stick at, the bay was heaving. The scrutineering took place within the yard of the Islands distillery and the Evo3 passed without major issue. Dan spent some time making sure the light pod was fixed securely to stop it vibrating and after we had taken the van to the first leg’s service area, we were back in Tobermory ready for the Rally start that evening.
With Andy and Cat being number 17 they were one of the early starters and after watching them head off to start Stage 1 Dan and I headed off to the service area in Craignure. On the way the team mobile phone rang. My heart sank as I knew it would only be a call from one other phone, that of the phone in the rally car and it would only ring for one reason. Sure enough, there was a problem. The alternator belt had gone on stage one and despite assistance from some ever enthusiastic rally fans, too much time had been used on stage getting it repaired. Stage two was completed before the car made it into service and a great feeling of dejection was hanging in the air. A full fix was carried out by Dan and Andy before the car was ready to continue. It was decided that only a few more stages were to be contested that evening as after going over time meant the car wouldn’t be classified and it wasn’t worth taking a risk and damaging the car further when entry to the trophy rally the following day was a very viable option.
The trophy rally was indeed the option taken which enabled the retirements from Friday to still be able to continue behind the field on the remaining stages so despite the disappointment of Leg One, there was still plenty to do. It was a pretty miserable day and a steady rainfall had caused difficult conditions so wet tyres were put on and the Car headed off to Bunessan for the start of Leg two as Dan and myself packed up the van ready to head off to the service point. On the way we needed to get fuel for the Rally Car and the dreaded phone went again. A rally organiser was on the other end. The car had gone off and had suffered serious damage about a mile into the first stage of the day. Thankfully Cat and Andy were ok but the Rally was definitely over this time. It turned out that upon landing after a jump, the car slid on mud and the rear went into a ditch. The impact then spat the car back out across the road and another rear impact with a concrete post sent the car into a spin. The onboard footage can be seen here.
As the car arrived on the back of a recovery lorry the damage was clear to see. Both rear wheels were pointing outwards in opposite directions. It was a sad way to mark the car’s final rally but thankfully no one was hurt. Clearly the Mull Rally was a tough one and very unforgiving as over half of the field that entered failed to reach the end. Over the course of the week many people asked how many Mull Rally’s Cat and Andy had done and we were met with the same reaction on the response of it being the first. A sharp intake of breath. They all knew something we didn’t and so it proved.
With the final leg to take place on the Saturday night, the team headed into Dervaig for dinner, to watch the remaining runners come through and to drown our sorrows. I was able to get some photos of and watch the section of the Glen Aros stage which came through Dervaig which was good fun, although I would of course have preferred to have been sitting in the Service area waiting for the Evo3 to arrive before sending out to complete the rally but it wasn’t to be. The village was packed with spectators, and so was the pub creating a great atmosphere, despite the local chav’s, girls of loose morals, drunkards young and old and the fact I’m sure I was charged more for a round of drinks because I was a southerner. The same round Dan bought, who’s a northerner, cost less.
As we headed off the Island on Sunday at the start of the long 13 hour trek home, underneath the sense of ‘What could have been’ I took great pleasure in what I had experienced and I thank Cat and Andy so much for giving me that. I’d like to think I will be back at Mull in the future for the rally even just as a spectator. But secretly I’d like to think it will be with Cat and Andy as they give it another crack of the whip.