The Mull Rally, a popular clubman event off the west coast of Scotland, has been forced to cancel its 2020 edition – originally planned for October 8-11 – and focus on its 2021 edition, citing ongoing uncertainty around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not even a Scottish championship round, never mind British, but as David Evans explains, it’s a huge loss to the 2020 rallying calendar.
October’s second weekend among Scotland’s Inner Hebrides will be rubbish this year. And quiet. Actually, that’s a bit harsh. It’ll be alright on 78 of the 79 islands, it’s just Mull that will be thoroughly miserable. And quiet.
Why? The best rally in the world has been called off.
Scratching World Rally Championship rounds is one thing, but this whole COVID-19 thing just got real. The Mull Rally has been canceled.
I know. Unbelievable.
Mull is, without question, the most atmospheric and deeply appreciated rally on the calendar. How many other events break their own website as soon as entries go on sale? And those 150 entries are sold out in a matter of minutes. Fifty-three minutes to be precise.
The Scottish island provides an unbelievably challenging route which runs well into a Friday – and Saturday – night. More than that, just once a year, it makes standing alongside Mishnish Lochs in the dead of night a viable alternative to a pint of Jarl in nearby pub Bellachroy’s Bear Pit.
It really is that good. Usually. But not this year.
Clerk of the course Andy Jardine admitted the decision was dictated by ongoing uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. While preparations for Mull had been moving forward, with the team behind the sell-out event closely monitoring the Scottish Government’s ‘route out of lockdown,’ the organizers are unwilling to proceed given the possible risk of spreading the virus.
“It was looking good for a while. October seemed so far off and things were opening up again, but now the end of July is looming and we just can’t commit to running the rally not knowing how the situation will develop,” explained Jardine.
“It’s tough for the team as we put a lot of effort into developing different ways to work with the coronavirus restrictions, but it isn’t practical to cover all the eventualities and keep everybody safe.
“This year’s been unprecedented in the way we’ve seen our sport simply stopped in its tracks by this pandemic. But we have to remember that an awful lot of people have been – and continue to be – affected in the most tragic way by coronavirus.”
Mull Car Club Chairman Fred Maclean added: “While some of the island is preparing for some sort of tourist season in the weeks ahead, there remains uncertainty and many places are not opening. Mull has remained apparently COVID-free throughout the lockdown period and there is a nervousness about what might happen when visitors return.
“This is the right decision for Mull and to ensure the rally is welcomed back in, hopefully, happier times in 2021.”
The upside is that Jardine’s confident his team will make great even better for 2021.
“After the event missed a couple of years due to the insurance issue [when its wasn’t possible to insure the rally in 2017 or ’18], we got the overwhelming message that the Mull Rally was still a competitors’ favorite when we broke the internet as entries opened in 2019.
“This has energized the team to use this break to take a step back and think about a review of the format of the event and we’ll be getting our heads together in the next couple of months to see what can be done to freshen it up a bit.
“It goes without saying, none of our Octobers will be the same this year. We’ll all spend a bit longer watching Peter Taylor’s run through Gribun on YouTube! But the key thing – the only thing – is to stay healthy, keep the island healthy and be back, bigger and better next time.”
At least the internet won’t be broken this year.