Friday 14 October 2016

Rally - Controlled chaos

It must be Scrutineering day. From 9 this morning till late afternoon a colourful procession of cars will make its way through the Tobermory Distillery arch into the Scrutineering bay where wheels will be shoogled, lights checked and that the crews have fireproof knickers before the Beatson’s Mull Rally gets underway at 7pm tonight. And it’s raining. Not much, but this is Mull. Showers are predicted over the weekend. Folk think wet roads are the great equaliser, but not in this game. The fast cars will still be faster.

So it’s worth bearing in mind that while it’s the minority who will make the headlines on Sunday, it will be the majority who make the rally. Folk like Pat Johnson from Yorkshire who appeared with a really smart Opel Kadett. It was just a ‘shell 3 weeks ago but is now a rally car with a 2 litre red top. “I finished 16th here in 1983 in an Opel Kadett and I just like them, and it’s not an Escort” said Pat, “I ran a Subaru for the past 3 years but wanted to get back to a real car.” The wee sticker on the side window pays tribute this former co-driver Graham Harper who passed away a couple of years back and his cautionary words of advice to his driver are still as good today as they were then: “Remember – cold tyres, cold brakes, cold brain.”

Keith Robathan was a late entry: “I got a call saying all the Reserves had got a run and there’s still a couple of spaces, so I said to my wife Pam, is it OK if I do Mull?” She replied: “Why are you asking? If I say ‘No’, you’ll still do it anyway!” She was right.

MacKay’s Garage in Tobermory, and many other garages around the island, were going like a fair during rally week. These beacons of hope and mercy offer succour to the cars and crews who strike trouble far from home, or who may have struck something substantial when out recceing and need last minute mechanical first aid. It was so busy that Iain Noble aka ‘Fooey the Fireman’ who works at MacKay’s was having trouble getting his own car ready: “I’ve borrowed it from a friend in Norfolk (that’s near Holland apparently). He’s a farmer down there and has done a few events up here with his Mk2 but he reckoned he’d do the car a mischief if he did Mull – so he gave it to me!” There’s one born every minute, eh? Fooey is a local emergency Fireman and although he knows the roads, he’s usually driving a 12 tonne fire truck.

Steven Paterson was looking bleary eyed as he drove the Corsa in to Scrutineering: “We finished at 2am this morning,” he said, “we got the gearbox back from Ireland last night and when we fitted it, we found a problem with the casing, so we had to take it out, rebuild the ‘box into another casing, and then re-fit it – but we’re here now!”

Another late finisher was Scott MacBeth. He’s a first timer here, well not quite: “I co-drove fcor Ross MacDonald last year to see what it was like!” The Mitsubishi has been fitted with bigger wheels and brakes but he was supposed to get his Proflex rebuilt ahead of the rally: “Ian (Chadwick) was doing it but he arrived a day late so we were still at it at 9pm last night. In the meantime I had phoned my Dad to get ready to take the suspension of Ross’ car and bring it over for mine.”

And then there are the old hands who have been coming here for years. Second overall in 1995 in a rear wheel drive Vauxhall Astra, Billy Bird is back with his Chevette this year. So too is John Cressey in the MINI. He has finished in all of the top ten places except 1st and 6th, but: “If I make the calendar this year (that means a top 12 finish) then I will consider that a result.” Tony Bardy has been coming here since 1990: “I only do Mull, the North West Stages and the Christmas stages,” he said, “Winter is the only time we’re quiet at work so I can go rallying.”

Friday is a long day, so how do some of the drivers pass their time waiting for night fall? Apparently John Morrison had agreed to go for a 2 hour bike ride with Donnie MacDonald and had prepared a route. Now, Donnie is pretty fit and does a lot of road cycling, and John isn’t and doesn’t, so Donnie asked to see the route. John had picked a pretty flat route, so Donnie changed it for one with hills! I wonder if they’ll get back in time.

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