Friday, 20 October 2017

Rally - Just a thought

With regard to the baring of bums in cold winter climes, perhaps it's an idea to cover up rude posteriors now that the dark wintry nights are drawing in.

I know the midges have gone quiet, but there are other things lurking out there in the forested murky glades that might be attracted to soft and succulent white flesh. OK, so succulent is maybe pushing it a bit, but you get my drift.

We've all had a good laugh at the various demonstration antics and the MSA's embarrassment, but perhaps the more we wind them up, the more belligerent and entrenched in their views they might become. We don't know exactly who it was who recommended Jock's escapade to the National Court, but perhaps  it is time for us all to take stock, re-think and allow matters to get back to normal.

If we all lie low, who knows, a certain party might get a nice wee present in the post - his competition licence back before the new season starts. The more we prolong this affair, the harder it will be for both sides to agree a compromise.

Look at it another way, if he doesn't get his licence back then the whole stramash will blow up again  at the first event of the new season when there is a notable absence amongst the top seeds, because he's at home with feet up in front of the fire. That will undoubtedly provoke a renewed reaction. And if he still doesn't have his licence back in time for the joint Scottish and British Championship round in March then the whole affair will blow up again, big time, and reach all corners of the UK, and no doubt further afield.

Less well known is the fact that by way of penance at his Hearing, Jock actually offered the Court the use of his own Special Stage (constructed at his expense in a quarry for the Galloway Hills Rally and used as a spectator stage) for a Marshal's Training Day. Newcomers could undertake the mandatory on-line registration process in the on-site office and then go straight outside for a practical hands-on session  at a real Stage Start, Finish and other marshalling duties. Jock even undertook to get some additional drivers and their cars along to add authenticity. That offer was rejected and the unreasonable penalty handed down.

When I last spoke to Jock he had no intention of appealing the penalty, he was just going to take it on the chin and move on, and perhaps there's a lesson there for us all. That doesn't mean to say that Jock thought the outcome fair either, but that doesn't excuse us from taking a similar view.

Methinks our governors have been taught a lesson. Of course they are there to administer, regulate and adjudicate, but they are also there to listen, respond and represent our interests.

This matter has been ill-judged and over reacted, but I fear that things will only get worse if action is prolonged.

The MSA has been backed into a corner because the National Court is an independent body and the MSA actually has no power to review or overturn their decisions. On that basis, is it time to call a halt to the protest? Allow some time for wounds to heal?

Is it time to pull our breeks up - and keep them up?

Monday, 16 October 2017

Rally - Reflections

I had a grand trip home despite the mist and the rain for the first half of the trip. It started when I was standing there at the edge of the pavement in Craignure minding my own business. A black pickup truck cut the corner, whizzed past, just missing my bunnet and polishing the tips of my boots, then stopped on its nose. Shocked? I was all set for an altercation when James MaGillivray poked his head out of the window - laughing.

He was a foot passenger on the same ferry  and we spent a good hour chin-wagging, the past, the present and the future - it was the wee ferry, the Coruisk, so we had to wait outside Oban to let the big ferry out!

And therein lies our biggest fears, the future. Not just for the Mull Rally but for the sport of rallying. Those in authority and expensive suits and fancy wigs seem to have it in for us.

We also remembered the good times. Y'know it's umpteen years and a few more (he couldn't remember the exact year either!) since he got himself the nickname 'Jock the Bull' (the word 'Bull' has to rhyme with 'Mull' for authenticity) when he and his Dad sold a bull for a world record price at the Perth Bull sales. Coincidentally, James' subsequent rally car selection took a leap up the Price Lists after that.

I remember an absolutely charming, gangly young bloke on Mull in the late 1980s who was taking an interest in this rallying lark. He finished 5th overall in 1990 in a 1300 Escort. He was 4th the following year with a 1600 Escort, 2nd in 1993 and 3rd in '94. In 1996 he was 8th in the Corsa and 9th in 2000, before going back to the Mk2. He only won the Tour of Mull once and that was in 2005 at the wheel of the Subaru Impreza. Funny thing, he's had at least 7 co-drivers over that time. So what does that say about his driving? Whatever, he's still an absolutely charming, but not quite so-young, man!

On eventual arrival in Oban, I gave him a lift into town, shook hands, and we parted, no doubt each thinking - will we ever meet up for the rally again? Here's hoping.

By that time most of the traffic from the ferry had gone by, but I latched on to the end of a small group at the head of which was a seriously mucky SWB Land Rover Defender with big wheels and an equally mucky old-shape Discovery. I had seen them get on the ferry, but these boys certainly knew the road home.

We were never over 60 all the way down to Lochearnhead, and rarely did I see any brake lights ahead, wet roads or dry, fast corners or slow. It was a treat sitting back watching that short wheelbase job on its chunky tyres. Nonetheless, a quick trip. Nice one boys.

Coming into Strathyre we picked up the tail end of a longer convoy at the head of which was a wee blue Fiesta driven by one of those Sunday 'joy-riders' who goes out looking for a twisty road just to see how many cars he/she can back up behind them. By this time it was a lovely night, cruising in the gloaming with light rain keeping the intermittent wiper in use, but what clear fresh air. Scotland at its best. Great slashes of late season almost phosphorescent sunlight, illuminating and  highlighting the autumn streaked contours with dark, brooding rocky masses still cloaked in mist and cloud around them. Here and there a glimpse of blue sky through the grey turbulence above. Breathtaking. Simply breathtaking.

The Fiesta was still there through Callander as we approached Doune and since I knew there were roadworks traffic lights at the bridge I turned off through Doune village and over the back road past the Stirling Memorial (to Colonel Sir David Stirling, OBE, DSO, who founded the SAS) to pick up the Dunblane/Bridge of Allan roundabout on the A9 and headed south and homewards.

And you know what, up until that point I hadn't been too fussed about the Marco Polo. As I said to some of those on the island who asked, I liked it but wouldn't have one. That trip home converted me. Sitting there for a couple of hours in sheer bliss following the guys in front. Enough power to keep up and road handling to match despite the weight of the two bedrooms, kitchen and lounge behind me. Even on the tighter bends, only the rattle of cups and cutlery in the background indicated that the 190PS 2.2 litre 'big black beastie' was experiencing some g-forces. A proper old-school 'grand' machine.

If Mercedes-Benz can fix the price, then I'll have one.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Rally - A final word

A number of you were kindly asking after my wellbeing on the island with regard to my luxury B&B accommodation, without the second ‘B’, as I had to make the porridge myself each morning, but the short answer is – fabulous.

When it comes to motoring, the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo is a serious ‘wafter’, one of those vehicles that just wafts along the highways and by-ways in serene comfort. And therein in lies one of its greatest attractions, the fact that it can go exploring down the sideroads and country roads that would defy those users of the larger motorhomes. They might be fine travelling from site to site but for true exploring something the size of the Vito based Marco Polo is ideal.

Of course there are drawbacks. It requires someone of a tidy mind and nature to get the best out of it. Belongings and clothes have to be moved back and forth to gain access to cookers and fridges, cupboards and beds but that’s the only drawback to the compact size. Otherwise everything has been built-in including the kitchen sink, except a loo!

The beds are supremely comfortable. On the first night in Ledaig car park, I retired to the upper sleeping quarters at 11.30 pm – and slept in. A straight 8 hours, waking up to the sound of flip-flops slapping on paving outside as other campers headed for the shower block in the Harbour Office.

On the subject of beds, the upstairs double is particularly comfy, made from slats which have rubber pads (probably to stop you waking up with red stripes across your body!) to spread the weight and ensure that the foam mattress comforts and cossets. The only drawback is the undignified and inelegant sprachle to get up there and back down. There’s no wee ladder!

Speaking of the Harbour Office, the kind folks in there allowed me to use their wi-fi signal over the weekend to help me with posting the various snippets and pics so I‘m ever so  grateful to them. By the way the aquarium is well worth a visit. It is the only ‘return to sea’ aquarium in  Europe whereby anything interesting brought in by the local fishermen is put on display for a month and then returned from whence it came. In other words, there is a constantly changing display of what can be found locally in the seas around Mull. Fascinating. They’ve got a bright blue lobster at the moment. Really awfy rare, apparently.

Last night was spent at Angus McWilliam’s Tobermory campsite and caravan park just outside the town where I was able to plug into electricity. Although the camper has a night heater, it wasn’t needed. It wasn’t cold enough. I also used the campsite’s wi-fi which had a stronger signal than down the hill so the ‘Motorsport News’ report and hi-res pictures have been dispatched with no problems this morning.

And so brings an end to another Mull. A different one this time, but no less enjoyable, for a whole variety of reasons. There’s just one more thing to do and that is visit the ‘Silent Spectator’ high above Dervaig, sit on the bench, and have a wee chat and share a pipe.

I wonder what he would have made of all this? There would have been dismay at the Government interference but delight at what was achieved to perpetuate the memory. It’s over 50 years now since he came up with the idea to run a rally on the Island of Mull. Not only a man of vision, but a man of fierce determination. The result was the origination of the Tour of Mull Rally and the Act of Parliament which originally allowed closed public road rallying in Scotland.

So visit the cairn. Stop in the layby across the road. Take a wee walk up the hill, read the inscription and sit and ponder a while, and thank the man and his team who made it all happen.

Thanks Brian. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Rally - Mull defies predictions

If you believed all the TV and radio weather forecasters with their electronic maps, meteorological charts, scientific instruments, tight skirts and sharp suits then you would be sitting at home in your string vest and underpants wringing out your drookit shirt/blouse and trousers. You’d also be regretting your decision to go out and watch the Beatson’s Building Supplies backed Targa Rally and Mornish Time Trial. And there’s more, the menfolk would be anticipating an early onslaught of that most debilitating of illnesses, man-flu.

Fortunately, the doom and gloom laden prophecies did not come to pass. Of course there was a wee bit of rain, and a few passing showers, but by Mull standards the weather was glorious and definitely nowhere near as bad as we were all expecting.  

For those who braved the elements, to-day’s Time Trial and yesterday’s Targa Rally provided a rather different spectacle to the one for which the glorious Isle of Mull is most famous. For those who took part in either or both, there was much sporting fun to be had.

Reay MacKay scored a convincing win in to-day’s Time Trial in his Ford Focus WRC. His best run out of six was 7 seconds faster than the Subaru Impreza of Andy Davies. Brian Watson lost out on second place by 2 seconds in his Lancer (with mascot tie-wrapped to the grille) and Steven Fraser was 4th in his Lancer. In a surprising 5th place was Scott Erskine, first time behind the wheel for 5 years and 1st time out in a borrowed Fiesta R2, while Tommy Graham rounded off the top six with his Lancer after a fuel pump problem was fixed – twice!

If Erskine was top FWD car, then Eddie O’Donnell’s bright orange Escort in 7th place was top RWD machine and at the finish Mrs O’Donnell added: “It’s still for sale.”

And just to confirm my earlier provisional results for the Targa, Andy Beaumont was the winner in his Sunbeam Rapier from Garry Pearson in the Renault Clio with Craig Wallace third in his Toyota Corolla ahead of the Vauxhall Viva of David Ruddock.

Full and final results for both events on Raymond Mann’s :

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the weekend is the number of competitors, volunteer officials, fans and followers who made the commitment to support this initiative created by The Guardians, Mull Car Club and the Saltire Rally Club. Both events required huge dollops of commitment, hard graft and long hours to put the show on the road and keep the spirit of motor sport alive on the island. Our grateful thanks are due to each and every one of them.

I must also make mention of the Tunnock’s Teacake eating contest, for unbeknownst to youse all out there, the winner, one Richard Crozier Esq, having scoffed 17 of the sweet wee rascals then went outside and had a fish supper with his pals. I hope none of you are staying anywhere near his digs or downwind of his drains!

Of course there were some who took the competitions seriously, but for most folk it was a chance to have a bit of fun, and that’s what they did. It’s also why we’re all in this sport in the first place.

And that includes those ‘cheeky’ boys who brought the event to a tasteful conclusion at the end of the Time Trial (see previous post).