Friday 17 October 2014

Rally - Memory loss

I’ve just seen the Tunnock’s Mull Rally report in this week’s ‘Motorsport News’. I don’t remember writing a word of it! It was started about 4.30 am on the Sunday morning and Billy (the night porter) could see I was struggling. He brought me a pint of ‘Heart & Soul’ lager – like he did at the same last year!

You see, the big problem with ‘MSN’ is the word count. Prior to the rally I was told to provide an 800 word main report and 400 word sidebar. That’s not a lot of words for an event with 154 competitive miles in 20 stages. Especially when there are 140 cars and crews from all across the UK, and further afield competing, and each with their own tales to tell.

Writing the report is more about what has to be left out, than included. Hence the need for mental stimulation and physical refreshment.

The first draft was prepared in time for breakfast then it was on to ‘Flying Finish’ to check that the Provisional Results hadn’t been changed. They had. Nothing major but it shows the value of checking, and the final copy was prepared and word-counted.

Whether anyone can do justice to such an event in 1200 words is for the readers to judge, but I felt I was on the back foot right from the start. Arriving late on the island I missed the Shakedown and saw the last two cars through Scrutineering. From that point on it was a case of constantly trying to catch up, and I failed miserably, hence the less than exhaustive on-line reportage than had been achieved in the past.

Naturally, I blame Mercedes-Benz and jet lag. I had spent two days in the rain in Spain driving new Vito vans through city centres and up and down mountain passes (yee-haaa) in a variety of front wheel drive and rear wheel drive motors. Then it was back to the airport on Thursday afternoon for the flight to Stansted, a 4 hour wait for the connection to Glasgow, then an early-doors start to Corran on Friday morning for the first of the two ferries. Knackered before I started.

But I’m not the only one suffering memory loss. It would appear to be a rather common trait on the island. And perhaps these harrowing tales best illustrate the unique atmosphere and appeal of this event.

Two senior officials who had spent most of Sunday evening in the MacDonald Arms thought they’d best head for the Western Isles Hotel to conclude their evening’s repartee. They walked along the main street shoulder to shoulder and then up the never-ending (when you’ve got a drink in you) stairs to the welcoming hostelry. At breakfast the next one morning, one senior official turned to the other and asked: “Well, what happened to you last night?” “What do you mean?” came the reply. “Well, we were having a drink in the Mac and then you just left me.” The reply came back as another question: “Well, who do you think walked with you along the main street, helped you up the stairs and then helped you find the front door of the Western?” This final reply was rather short. “Oh!”

This memory loss seems to affect rally spectators too. One current rally driver who was over there purely for the social atmosphere – and possible recce for next year - was telling me he had quite a party in the car park on Saturday evening outside MacGochan’s. “We had been up on the Lochs spectating then just came down for something to eat and a wee bevvy and it just went from there. We had a really  good evening. Then this morning a couple of complete strangers came up to me and thanked us for such a great party last night, making them feel welcome and having a good time laughing and joking – I still have no idea who they were, and I don’t remember them with us last night!”

Yup, that’s what this event can do to old-hands and newcomers alike. If you’ve never been it’s one for the bucket list.

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