For the 46th time, Mull will see some of the fastest rally cars in the UK when the Mull Rally roars into action on Friday, October 9. For the first time, the world famous three-day rally (Oct 9-11) on the Inner Hebridean island welcomes Beatson’s Building Supplies as the title sponsor. A total of 150 crews from across the UK will tackle the 18 stages and 160-miles of high-speed action on the closed-off public roads normally used by islanders, tourists and farmers.
At the head of the field, there are a number of drivers who will battle for overall victory and podium places in the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally, supported by EventScotland, a team within VisitScotland’s Events Directorate.
Seeded No1, last year's winner Calum Duffy, has ditched his all-conquering Ford Escort MkII and replaced it with a four-wheel drive GpA Subaru Impreza. But will the change of car alter his approach to the rally?
Twelve months ago, Tristan Pye admitted to being "proud as Punch" when he powered his Impreza home in second place. But the Bishop Auckland driver is playing down his chances this year.
"Last year's result was fantastic, but I'm not allowing myself to get too excited this year," Pye, who will be co-driven by Invernessian Andrew Falconer, admitted.
"A lot of things have got to fall into place for a result like last year's to happen, including problems for some other drivers, which of course none of us want.
"Getting into the top three this year will be tough, because there's a lot of stiff competition. Being realistic, I think it's very unlikely I'll win, but I'll give it a heck of a go."
Pye, who plans to focus on delivering a good, strong, clean run through the opening leg on the Friday evening before "going for it" on the Saturday, has already starting building a "lightweight Subaru" which he will use on Mull in 2016.
The field also includes some of the fastest Tarmac rally drivers around, who annually flock to test themselves on the dauntingly demanding high-speed test that is the Mull Rally.
Richmond's Tony Bardy returns to action in his Ford Focus, and 12 months after being forced to retire his MkI Ford Escort with fuel-feed problems, Jimmy McRae returns to Mull.
The five-times British rally champ, now 71, will be partnered by his longtime co-driver Ian Grindrod, but this time the duo will drive a Vauxhall Firenza.
Ireland's Derek McGeehan will cross the Irish Sea to tackle the event in his unique, right-hand drive MINI World Rally Car — it's the only right-hander in the world — while 17-year-old Ally Currie from Tobermory will return to tackle the event for the second time in his Peugeot 106.
One of the highlights of the event is a change from tradition. Crews will tackle ‘The Long One’ as the first stage of the Saturday night, and in reverse direction from the last few years. The 21.89 miles starts at Dervaig, and heads round Calgary Bay before the fast finish at Torloisk.
The other major change is the finish of the rally's final stage which will, for this year, be at Tobermory when the Glen Aros and Mishnish Lochs stages are combined to make a 15-mile last test.
"I think that once again we've managed to put together a thrilling and exciting event, not just for the crews who are competing, but also the spectators," Iain Campbell, Clerk of the Course for the event, explained.
"Of course, none of the weekend’s motorsport activity would be possible without the continued support of the residents of the island.
"They put up with the invasion that arrives during the second week of October every year, and the closure of their roads, with good spirit and a proper Highland welcome.
"Safety, as always, is paramount, and we have worked closely with Police Scotland to ensure the Beatson's Mull Rally is as safe as possible for the crew and the spectators."
Paul Bush OBE, Director of Events at VisitScotland, said: "We are delighted to once again be supporting the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally. The event will provide a wonderful weekend of action and excitement for spectators. Scotland is the perfect stage for motorsport events, and in the Mull Rally we have a thrilling spectacle, set against the stunning backdrop of the island."