Sunday 15 October 2023

Rally - King Fergus

King Fergus II ?

Mixed thoughts and emotions over the weekend. I missed Mull. It’s majesty, mystery, motor sport, mayhem and magic, and of course the memories, but I said my goodbyes last year. It occurred to me that I have actually spent more of my birthdays on the Isle of Mull than anywhere else, and that includes home!

I reckon I am now officially in ‘auld git’ territory. No doubt the arrival of ‘grumpiness’ will be the next trait in the aging process as I remain truly impartial and un-opinionated in all matters!

Even so I watched and listened to Mull from afar and was enthralled, as ever. Whilst a sense of sadness prevailed for all those who didn’t finish the rally, there were humungous amounts of delight at those who accomplished one of the most impressive feats of motor rallying in Scotland, make that the UK. Nope, even that doesn’t cut it, one of the most impressive stage rallying feats in the world – by finishing the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally!

So full praise for King Fergus and Prince Craig. What a marvellous result for the Barlow boys. Over a minute clear of the opposition. And you know what, I wasn’t surprised in the least because some years ago a cocky young tyke barely out of school uniform told me he would win the rally one day. He repeated that prophecy at the Mull Targa three years ago, so how could it ever be doubted?

And just in case you wonder at the title of this latest rumination, ‘King Fergus’ was in actual fact the first King of Scotland. He actually came over from Ireland and helped the Scots in their fecht to gub the Picts and Britons and duly became King Fergus 1 of Scotland. So now we have King Fergus II of Mull.

If I was delighted with the Barlow brothers’ result then I was really pleased to see James Ford with Neil Shanks in second place. James is one of those overlooked UK talents who could be on the world stage if only he had the budget. And didn’t Neil Roskell go well with Andrew Roughhead? Despite his lack of experience of rallying in general he has exploded on to the national stage and third place just proves what he lacks in youth, he makes up in skill and talent.

There was also great pleasure in seeing Scott MacBeth with Hannah McKillop in fourth place. We’ve all known that Scott has the talent but rarely the luck and all too often the mechanical disappointment. Just missing out on the final podium place will be hard to take but fourth in such illustrious company is one heckuva result.

In fact the top ten was just full of magic, with Jonathan Mounsey’s latest bid to win the one event he so dearly wants to win frustrated yet again and Ross Hunter doing what he does best, driving brilliantly in changing weather conditions. Rally car builder Wayne Sisson finished ninth sandwiched between the glorious Mk2 Ford Escorts of Stephen Thompson and Stewart Morrison. All of them, those magnificent men in their flying machines.

Two other results stood out like fiery beacons in a dark and murky nightscape, ‘Dangerous’ Des Campbell’s 12th place and young Ally Currie’s 21st place. I really don’t know how their respective co-drivers, Craig Forsyth and Alex Hill, could sit beside such driving dementedism (I just made that word up!) as Des is in a humble Peugeot 206 and Ally in a Peugeot 106. I simply can’t visualise how these diminutive machines can be propelled so quickly but it does recall one phrase to mind – “if in doubt, flat out!”

But really, everyone who finished the rally is a real star, and those who didn’t, deserve a medal anyway for just turning up and having a go ‘at the best rally in the world’.

And another impressive thing. Out of 119 starters there were 26 ladies and lasses taking part, a fact few other stage rallies could manage. Although having said that, there were countless womenfolk helping the rally crews and service crews, and of course the marshalling crews who turned out in their dozens to ensure the continued success of this event.

One note of concern though. I noticed on social media that some folk were disappointed in the Salen Re-Start ceremony on Saturday evening. Apparently it seemed to lack the sense of occasion and celebration that it has done in the past. We have to remember that rallying is not just about the winners and the losers, but all of those in between, those clubmen and women who bolster and support every rally entry list. Each and every one has an essential part to play in the drama and action. Perhaps it needs the return of ‘the prat in the hat’!

Or failing that, maybe we could ask Eddie O’Donnell to take on commentary duty because he’ll never get a car built in time for next year, even if he starts now, will he?

I just hope that Mull never loses its unique social atmosphere and competitive blend of fun and sporting enjoyment because that’s what it’s all about. Unique because it all takes place on a relatively small island that is so friendly, welcoming and easily accessible - when the ferries run! CalMac does have its critics but it’s not all their fault. They have been badly let down by those who are supposed to govern our country and help our fellow countryfolk, and that includes the islanders even more than the mainlanders.

Politics over, hail King Fergus.

P.S. I’ve just had a very worrying and disturbing thought. Just suppose Fergus was indeed made King of Scotland. His qualities shone through on that recent CalMac documentary on the telly. If you didn’t see it, it’s well worth a catch-up and watch.


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