By Caroline Lodge
The morning after my exploits at Kames I was up bright and early to pack the car and set off to The Isle of Mull. We’ve being going to the rally since 1999 to either, marshal, radio or service. However this year I was competing in the event for the first time. My friend Rachel has done the event for the last 2 years but as she is ‘indisposed’ this year she asked me stand in for her, and navigate for Dave Edwards from Carnforth way.
On arriving on Mull I had a short time to get sorted out before meeting up with Dave and Rachel and heading out for to start our reccy. We spent most of the first part of the week driving the route in day light and at night. The Mull weather was not good to us, we experienced, gales, torrential rain, spectacular forked lightening and marble sized hailstones! Luckily it seemed to get things out of it’s system and the weather improved towards the end of the week.
Wednesday was our day off and Rachel and I did the tourist thing, took the dog to the beach, watched Eagles, and seals, bought Balamory tat and spent quite a while looking, unsuccessfully, for Elvis – Tobermory’s friendly otter.
Thursday – The car and the rest of ‘Team Mulldaves’ arrived, as did Jonathan, Mark, Rick and Paul, (my entourage). Team Mulldaves – Malc, Chris, Christian and Jim, plus various members of Daves family, are a ‘grand bunch’ from Lancashire and they really made me feel welcome and ‘reet at ‘ome.’ Whilst getting the car sorted one afternoon, Dave’s mum appeared with a tray of scones which she has just made – now that’s what I call service! That afternoon we headed over to Tobermory High School to give a bit of a presentation to the kids and hand out goodie bags. Later we did one last check over a stage that evening and it was time to relax as if things went to plan there wouldn’t be much time to rest until Sunday morning.
Friday seems like the longest day ever, noise and scrutineering etc starts late morning and everyone starts to get excited or jittery or both! We also caught up with a few mates, Paul Millar and Katie Mashiter from KLMC were out in an Astra too – Pauls first FWD rally car, he hadn’t had much practice as they went out in the early stages of the Pendragon. Stuart Egglestone and Brian Hodgson were also out in an Astra, Pete and Dave Gibson were out in their Evo 6. There’s the co-driver’s briefing, documentation and then what seems like the longest wait ever to start a rally.
21.17hrs and we made our way through the start and to the first stage, ‘Glen Aros and the Hill Road’, a 14.1 miler to start the night with, I’ve never had to say so much in such a short time, there is no opportunity for hesitation, repetition or to breathe! Whist delivering these note thick and fast I encountered my first problem – the map light had got nice and hot then it made it’s way towards me and got tangled with my intercom, so I spent my first stage on Mull, trying to rattle through the notes whilst having my nose and chin burned by a light bulb at regular intervals – and I didn’t have time to yelp! We caught our minute man at Derviag Church (9+ miles in) – the main spectator area for the stage. We found out later that, Jonathan and co, Rachel, and Dave’s family were all there watching. SS2, Gribun was noncompetitive due to a couple of incidents, SS 3 and 4 went well. On to Calgary – a major oversight (by both of us) during the reccy left us with no notes for the first 4 miles, Luckily Dave knows the island very well and I just had to wait until I could start delivering the notes I had. Another good stage, with just one reasonably big moment at the top of Calgary steps when things got a little out of shape. Dave held on and we got away with it unlike a number of other cars. Then on to do the final stage of the night, Loch Tuath. After 46.6 stage miles we had climbed to 47th place, we had been seeded at 85, Stuart and Brian were at 32nd, Pete and Dave were lying 59th, whilst Paul and Katie were not having a good time at 83rd. Anyone who saw Paul could hear him muttering ‘I hate front wheel drive’, ‘I want my Escort’. The crew checked the car and we went to grab some food and some sleep.
Saturday afternoon and we were in the car again to do another 5 stages/35 miles. We pulled away from the MTC at Salen, after receiving some ribbing by Mr Bob Molloy, and headed out to Loch Tuath, Calgary (the version we’d prepped for), Mishnish Lochs, Gribun and Loch Scridain. At service after Mishnish Lochs, you could have excused us for thinking that we were on the wrong island, the sun was shining, there wasn’t a breath of wind and temperatures were approaching 20 degrees. Not that we had much time for admiring the view as we belted along the roads. We had a good run, setting some quite reasonable stage times. I even managed to remember to turn on the in car camera and filmed all 5 stages that afternoon. By the end of Leg 2, we were lying 40th, Pete and Dave were 44th despite nearly having to retire before the 2nd Leg due to fuel pump problems, Paul was still not a happy bunny at 69th, Stuart and Brian had been having electrical difficulties and had opted to retire from the main event – work on the car and join the Trophy rally.
Time for rest and refueling again, sleep was not an option as the start of the final leg was more nerve racking than the start of the whole rally. We still had 52.2 miles, the equivalent of another event, between us and the finish line. The weather was holding out and the car was running well, it was all down to Dave and I to see it through.
We left the MTC for the last time at 21.40hrs Our first stage was ‘The Long one’, (Loch Tuath and Calgary as one 22 mile stage) That was hard work but we did it in 23min 38 sec, then on to Mishnish where we narrowly missed disaster. Less than 2 miles from the end of stage, the car steamed up, at the same time the fuse blew on the heated screen. Dave said he couldn’t see, I looked up and the screen was a total whiteout. Hence what should have been a 6L into 6R (90L into 90R) into long 5L, became straight on at 6L through the undergrowth and rejoin the road on the 5L ! We made it stage finish, when we stopped to change a puncture, we discovered a snapped wheel stud too. Our next destination was service so we had our fingers crossed that any damage we’d done during our detour was no more serious than the stud. We also discovered that the source of the steam problem had been down to the washer bottle coming out of it’s bracket in the back of the car. That was quickly and simply dealt with.
Out again for the final 3 stages, Loch Scridain and Gribun stages in the opposite direction to previous, then The Hill Road/Glen Bellart – a reverse of the first stage on Friday night. Loch Scridain highlighted that we’d knocked the tracking out during ‘the incident’ and the Astra had become a bit twitchy. As with most of the stages on Mull there are lots and lots of crests on bends and tight twisty sections, we were also hoping that any further damage was not going to come to light during the last stages. Dave got the car through the stage and felt a little more confident during the next one. Then there was just the final 14 miles to go, the Hill Road seemed so much longer running the opposite was but we soon got to Dervaig church again where it looked like we had run into day light, there was floodlighting for the hundreds of people there. We were quick over the bridge and on to the dark fells again. The final stretch is very fast with lots of jumps, Dave took it quickly but didn’t go for any heroics over the big jumps, we couldn’t risk throwing it all away now. We made it to the finishing line in 13m 35s, and certainly were a very happy and relieved crew as we made our way to the final MTC at Tobermory.
3 O’clock in the morning, we were a very happy and very very tired team. After being presented with a pie for finishing!!!! Did we do all that for a pie???? We made our way back for a brew and a few ‘war stories’ before trying to get some well earned sleep. Hmm, that was another problem I was shattered but still buzzing, at 5am I was back at our cottage still wide eyed and wide awake, Jonathan and Mark, had left me to it. Rick solved the problem and administered a little drop of whiskey – just to help me sleep you know.
Sunday afternoon, we caught up with everyone and went to the presentation, we found that we had finished 32nd o/a and were well chuffed with that. Stuart and Brian had won the trophy rally, Pete and Dave had came in 2 places ahead of us at 30th, whilst Paul and Katie finished 59th.
You can read all about who won etc on the net and in the press, this was my story about my first Mull. I hope I get the chance to do it again, although Rachel is already planning her return. Nothing can prepare you for that event, it is fantastic, and it’s a credit to the Mull Car Club that they pulled it all together in 6 months.
And what about Elvis? Well, he’s dead, no wonder we couldn’t find him!