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Matt Edwards: Why I love rallying on Mull

The story of an event rarely comes from fifth place. It did at last year’s Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally. After the opening stage, triple British Rally Champion Matt Edwards was 143rd. Last.

A day and a half later, he made up 138 places. Here’s how…

All photo credits: Colin Smith

Matt Edwards competed for the first time at the Beatsons Building Supplies Mull Rally during last year’s event. The rally formed part of the British Rally Championship at late notice, attracting the elite of British Rallying to add to the spectacle of the iconic event.

Finishing 5th may not be the result that a record-breaking triple British rally champion would look at as being very successful. But for any spectator, and for the world's rally media joining the event last year – he produced unquestionably the drive of the rally, and a famous result that contributed to his record breaking third successive British Rally Championship victory and demonstrated again his never give up style.

We asked Matt to tell us his story of that year’s event, his advice for competitors, and why improving the environmental perception of rallying is important for events such as Mull.

CPM: Thank you Matt, for taking the time out of your busy schedule in Ireland this week, to talk to us about your infamous Mull 2021 drive – firstly what are your memories of the people and the island itself on your first visit?

ME: Well to be completely honest I was quite nervous about going to the event, following some of the negative comments the BRC had faced following the announcement of us heading there, but as with anything that stemmed from a minority group of people, and in fact, all the fellow competitors, the organisers, and the local people couldn’t have been more welcoming and accommodating during our week on Mull.

The Island itself is stunning and is like stepping into a different world compared to the mainland, though it is hard to describe exactly why! I think it’s the landscape, and not having many roads, and phone signal!

CPM: Starting the rally, you had an uncharacteristic accident - I think on the first corner? How do you recover from such a situation?

E: Yeah it was a very strange one – things didn’t go to plan at the start line which meant we had the card through the door at 5s to go, so I didn’t get the car launched properly, didn’t put the lights on properly, and just as I started to get myself together and settle down, we were off – out of nowhere.

The first part of the plan was to get out the stage – so we stopped when we felt the rear corner was out of shape and effected a repair to stop the wheel moving around. That enabled us to get out, and get through the next one and slowly back to service, albeit with no brakes. Instantly the thought process was to try and claw our way back and focus on overhauling as many BRC runners as we could and take what we could from the event, so in reality it was very simple – just go as fast as we could for the remaining 15 stages!

CPM: Your recovery was rapid – setting several fastest times and breaking stage records by a visitor on their first event is unheard of, and for many the highlight of the rally? – what are the biggest challenges in setting such a speed in Mull?

ME: Although it’s a very special event and very different in terms of format to most rallies you would do, I felt it was important not to think of it as anything other than ‘just another rally’ and just prepared as I would normally with lots of homework, do a good recce, make good notes, then just let the event happen. If you can make good notes, you can go well anywhere, as even on stages I know well I’m never trying to rely on memory. With the amount of night stages I think the onus on your notes is even higher as you haven’t got the visibility to back up any memory you may have either, so it’s just down to the teamwork and understanding in the car to produce the times. I think those who will have seen our record run on ‘The Long One’ on YouTube will agree that stage is Darren Garrod’s finest hour – incredible.

CPM: Comparing Mull to other events – and you get to see many! do you think it’s up there as one of the greatest rallies in the world?

ME: I would say so – the roads and the format definitely make it a unique challenge that I’ve been lucky enough to do in a top-level car. Unfortunately, due to the costs these days, having many such event in a championship calendar is prohibitive, but it was great to be able to tackle a much longer event and really get stuck into it.

CPM: Your highly respected for your driver coaching skills, what advice would you give a competitor on Mull?

ME: Other than not going off on the first corner and making life difficult for yourself!? I think it’s important to get on rally time – we slept a lot in the day and did a lot of recce at night which was good for the body clock and the notes. Get the notes right, make sure your car can handle some bumps and jumps, but really make sure you have the best tyres you can afford over and above horsepower gains. The changeable weather means a good result can go out the window if you have to do a full leg on the wrong tyres.

CPM: Finally, you're also well known for promoting the need for rallying to address environmental concerns – what message would you give any competitor on the benefits to the sport and the event through supporting the event's initiatives with carbon offsetting?

ME: I think as much as anything, it's the perception of motorsport to the outside world that is our limitation. To be taking up offsetting initiatives is a great way to help negate our carbon emissions from an environmental perspective

I think it’s also a huge credit to our sport as a whole to be looking at ourselves in this way, which ultimately makes it more sustainable for Rallying to continue long into the future in spectacular places like Mull, without the stigma that it’s having a negative impact on the environment.

To celebrate the partnership between the Beatsons Building Supplies Mull Rally and Carbon Positive Motorsport, all competitors and spectators who offset their event related travel, will have the chance to win one of two exclusive hand signed canvas art prints of Matt from last year’s event by using the online discount code below.

It only costs a little to make a big difference for the sport, so whether you're a competitor or spectator, why not join with us to help make motorsport sustainable. To become Carbon Positive yourself, visit our website #CarbonPositiveMotorsport


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