Scrutineering for the Beatson’s Mull Rally got underway at 4pm this afternoon. Because a number of drivers have signed up for the shakedown stage tomorrow morning, the organisers provided an extra scrutineering session this afternoon for those taking part. It not only made sense but would ease the burden on the band of Scroots tomorrow with 150 competition cars to cast their beady eyes over.
Uniquely on Mull, Rally Scrutineering is held in a working whisky distillery! For years, Tobermory Distillery has played a most inviting host to the rally and adds its own rather special ‘atmosphere’ to proceedings.
Amongst the cars being checked over was Allan MacKay’s Ford Anglia WRC (Well Run Car) as he is running Zero car ahead of the rally. He and Chris Hammill are now licenced Rally Safety Officials having passed the MSA assessment, although assurances were given that no money changed hands and that all tests were passed fairly and squarely without resort to suspicious performance enhancing substances.
But Allan did express a note of concern: “They are setting Calum (Duffy) off 5 minutes behind me – no pressure then!” Indeed, methinks the prospect of the Dervaig Dervish appearing in his rear vision mirror will focus the mind.
Calum reckons he won’t catch him over Mishnish, but Glen Aros, that might be a different story. Having done two events in Northern Ireland prior to this weekend testing his Skoda Fabia Millington, Calum is raring to go: “I’m as near as damn it happy with the car,” he said, “I’d still like to do bits to it, but I’ll always say that. I think it’s the right tool for the job, time will tell. The drivers are here, the cars are here – let’s play ball!”
But if anyone thinks Calum’s 10th win on the island is a foregone conclusion, Calum isn’t amongst them: “The quality of entry on the Beatson’s Mull this year is massive. We will have to be absolutely flat out from first corner to last.”
James MacGillivray also appeared at this early session in a familiar looking blue Subaru Impreza: “This is my 2005 winning car,” said James, “I sold it to a chap in Salen and he hasn’t used it much so I’ve borrowed it back for this.”
Tristan Pye was next through the archway with his brand new self-built Subaru Impreza which he was testing at Otterburn last Sunday: “It is better than the old car, but I haven’t got the hang of it yet,” he said, “after all, I drove the old car for 7 years!”
John MacCrone’s car was brought into Scrutineering by the Buckley Boys resplendent in its gold sunburst Tunnock’s livery, but it’s not the Fiesta R5 as used by Alastair Fisher in Ireland, it is in fact the car used by Garry Pearson on the Scottish Rally Championship this past season, but now converted to full tarmac set up.
Event sponsor John Marshall’s Subaru Impreza looked glorious in its bright red and white paint scheme but he was playing down his chances: “All I need is 22 points to win the Scottish Tarmac Rally Championship title. I just need to be first 4WD car in my class and it’s job done. As long as I finish back here on Sunday morning I‘ll be happy.”
The Den Motorsport boys brought in both Ross Marshall’s and David Bogie’s Mk2 Escorts and the two cars looked remarkably similar in their white paint with grey and red decals, which prompted the observation - Is Ross hoping the Marshals confuse him and David and give him David’s stage time, or is David hoping to get Ross’ times? We’ll soon find out.
The 3 hour session was busy, but as darkness creeped in over Tobermory Bay the crowds melted away chattering excitedly about what the morrow will bring. The pubs and bars will be busy with such chatter tonight, but drivers and co-drivers, and service crews too if they know what’s good for them, should be tucked up in bed. Ahead lies one of the most intense rallying competitions in the UK. 150 miles of stages which wouldn’t disgrace a World Rally Championship counter and it all gets underway at 7pm tomorrow evening.
Oh, the final photo - It looks as though the Michelin Man has had an Irish makeover! Roll on tomorrow.