Dream birthday rally debut for Ally28 | 08 | 2014

    THE TUNNOCK'S MULL RALLY on October 10-12 is traditionally one of the high points of the UK rally calendar, and this year it'll have its very own recordbreaker competing. Mull-born Ally Currie will celebrate his 17th birthday on October 10 by tackling the 150-mile, three-day tarmac rally.

    And for the youngster, leaving the starting ramp behind the wheel of his Peugeot 106 in his home town of Tobermory on the Inner Hebridean island, will be the culmination of an intense 10-month commitment to start the rally.

    That drive and commitment has seen Currie take, and pass, his DVLA driving test as a 16-year-old on the Isle of Man — despite missing his ferry off Mull at the start of the trip — save for, buy and prepare his own rally car; and endure 54-mile daily round trips to and from work on the island on his 50cc Chinese moped.

    "Yeh, looking back over the past 10 months it's been a bit of a crusade," laughed Currie (pictured in action), whose competitive driving began in an autocross Nissan Micra, before entering the Scottish Junior 1000 series as a 14-year-old after buying a 1.0-litre Vauxhall Corsa.

    "The date for this year's Tunnock's Mull Rally was confirmed just before Christmas last year, and when I saw it I realised immediately the significance of the date: it started on my 17th birthday.

    "I immediately thought, 'I wonder if I could do it?'. I jokingly mentioned it on Facebook, and loads of my mates were saying, 'yes, you should go for it!'"

    Fuelled by innocence, and driven by a personal independence and belief, Currie immediately hit rock bottom.

    "Just after New Year, I was having a bit of a bad time. I thought, 'I can do the rally again some other time: it doesn't matter,' he explained

    Related: John MacCrone wins Tunnock's Mull Rally

    "But then around April I thought, 'this is a once in a lifetime opportunity which I'll never get again', so I decided to go and pass my driving test on the Isle of Man."

    With the theory test passed in June, he headed to Douglas on the IoM to sit his test on August 14. But as he reached the ferry port on Mull to begins his journey, he got a shock.

    "I got there and the ferry had left," he continued. "In the end I had to pay another 150 quid to get the other ferry to Lochaline and get my cousin's partner, Helen, to kindly drive me to Tyndrum to catch the train to Glasgow.

    "Then it was a flight to Manchester, and on to another plane to the IoM. It was all pretty hectic.

    "Once on the island, I only had 12 hours driving on roads I didn't know. I knew that I could drive — I'd learned to drive when I visited my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon with my family and used their driveway to get used to the controls — and that if I got my head together, brush off my bad habits, I could pass.

    "Even the morning before I took my test, I wasn't too confident. I knew I just had to stop worrying about it, and do it. Thankfully I passed. When the examiner told me, I didn't know what planet I was on."

    Within hours of returning to Mull, he'd filed his entry for the Tunnock's Mull Rally, and set about finishing the prep of his 106.

    "I've always worked on my cars myself," Currie, an incredibly mature and resilient 16-year-old who sold his X-Box gaming console when he "was 12 or 13 to help pay for the Corsa he bought off eBay for £350", explained.

    "I sorted out the insurance and got my mum to go down to Newcastle from her house in Glasgow to pick up the car and drive it back to Mull.

    Related: Tunnock's powers Allan McNish to Le Mans 24-Hours win

    "Once here, I parked it in the shed and started building a rally car. I had a wee bit of support at the start, but essentially I bought that car and built it when I was 13.

    "But when I turned up at my first Junior 1000 event at Ingliston, I could sense people were turning their noses up and thinking, 'this isn't the way you should be doing things'.

    "The car was heavy — most of the other guys had gone for Micras — but though I was chuffed to finish my first-ever rally I knew the car just didn't have any potential."

    So the Corsa was ditched, and replaced by a Citroen AX which he rallied through 2012 and '13. And last year he received the Scottish Junior 1000 Spirit of the Championship Award.

    After leaving school in September last year, he went on work experience for a few months before starting work on a mussel farm with with Inverlussa Marine Services just after Christmas.

    "I've worked with them since I was 15 and they allowed me to complete the 2013 Junior 1000 season because I'd committed to that before I started work with them," he continued. "They were really very supportive.

    "I obviously then had work commitments which wouldn't allow me the time to compete in the Junior 1000 campaign this year, so I was looking further afield to see what I could do. Then I thought: I can do Mull on the day of my birthday?"

    There are times when fate just delivers.

    Seven days after he was born, the week-old Currie was in the arms of his mum Louise — herself a co-driver — as she watched the 1997 Mull Rally.

    "I've never, ever missed a Mull Rally," he smiled. "I have been there for very one since I was born, and can remember them since I was four or five."

    Onlookers, without any knowledge base, often jump to the conclusion that any youngster competing in motorsport was born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Nothing could be further from the case in Currie's situation.

    Related: Tunnock's Mull Rally reveals 2014 timetable

    Before he left school, he had his own "wee boat" from which he would lay his own creels and then sell the prawns and lobsters he caught to local restaurants.

    Now, he's up at unearthly hour of the morning before jumping on his Chinese 50cc moped to ride the 27 miles from Tobermory to Inverlussa Marine Services in Craignua. And at the end of his shift, he has to get on his moped and ride the 27 miles back home.

    "I've done 9000 miles in the four-five months I've had the wee Chinese thing," he said. "It's nothing special, but it does the job.

    "The first one I had broke down, and I rebuilt the engine three times. It just couldn't handle the miles and the hills. So I bought another one, the same model and so far it's just a wee bit more reliable."

    It's a far cry from the comfort of the Mini Countryman in which he sat and passed his test on the IoM.

    Now though, his attention has turned fully to finishing the prep on his Peugeot 106 — which will be co-driven by the experienced Peter MacCrone, uncle of John MacCrone who dominated the Tunnock's Mull Rally last year — and the hunt for sponsors.

    "I'm really pleased to have Peter onboard," he stated. "He'll be a really big help.

    "I've also been really lucky to get the backing of Inverlussa Marine Services, and some local companies, including Highland Services and Cafe Fish, both in Tobermory; Alsop Transport Services in Oban; and Ian Gemmell who was the first Scot to win the Mull Rally in 1975.

    "But hopefully now I can generate a bit more backing to help me progress my rally career.

    "My objective is simply to get to the finish: if I can do that then I know it will resonate with a lot of people and highlight to them I'm capable of making the next step.

    "For the last few years, essentially I've done my own thing; made all the life decisions; made my own money and lived life the way I want it, which all revolves round hard work, determination and commitment.

    "It's that drive and determination which I believe will help propel me to success in rallying and motorsport."

    * If you feel you could help sponsor Ally Currie, please contact him direct at curriemotorsport@yahoo.co.uk

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    Jim McGill


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