The 2300 Club began life as the motoring section of a factory sports’ club in Blackburn in 1955. The factory was Mullards, part of the Philips’ empire, with over 5,000 employees. The Club was originally the Mullard Motor Cycle and Car Club, but this overlong title was shortened by taking the initial letters as Roman Numerals (MMCCC) and translating them to 2300.
The Club did all the usual things for a number of years. Navigational rallies, treasure hunts, club nights, cheap tyres and exhausts, but catering for its own members. The first big step forward was in 1959 with the first Mullard Trophy, a restricted rally to which outside clubs were invited. The event became an annual affair and was so well received that by 1963 the Mullard Trophy Rally was invited to become a qualifying round for the Motoring News Championship and, with the exception of one year, remained in that prestigious Championship until it came to an end in 1987.
The rallies of the 1960s were in the hands of Arthur Rogers, and were all outstandingly successful, high speed road events. We used north Lancashire, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, but it gradually became apparent that the residents of these areas were understandably less than enamoured by these regular night time intrusions by ourselves and many other Clubs. In 1968 the Committee concluded that they would not be organising any more events of this nature. The problems were becoming too great and too intractable. 1968 happened to be the year when Brian Molyneux and his family had a holiday on the Isle of Mull and the germ of a ridiculous idea was sown. The roads of Mull were ideal for rallying. Narrow, tortuous and, in places, quite frightening, they would provide a serious test of rallying skills.
The Club was surprised by the enthusiasm the suggestion generated, and was concerned that, perhaps, not everyone knew what they were letting themselves in for. However, most Island people saw it as a boost to tourism and the various authorities involved were extremely helpful. We had to rely on the goodwill of the Mull farmers to make sure that the sheep and cattle which abound on the roads of the Island were safely out of the way, something they have done for the 26 years of the event. The co-operation from all quarters was quite splendid, but still, as the fateful October date in 1969 approached, the organisers were apprehensive in the extreme about the outcome. They needn’t have worried. Virtually everyone seemed happy. The competitors with the challenge they faced and the welcome they received, and the Island people with the bonhomie of the visitors and the spectacle they brought (and, perhaps, the money). The children of Mull particularly enjoyed the noise, the colour and the razzmatazz which is not normally a feature of life on the Island. The newspapers called it "The Happy Rally" and urged us to "Haste Ye Back". After that sort of reception we had every intention of doing so.
Between 1969 and 1987 the Tour of Mull continued to be successful. From being initially a one night event, we introduced forest stages and ran a Saturday afternoon section in daylight. In 1980 it was decided to start the event on Friday night and together with the Saturday afternoon and Saturday night sections we now had a rally which was as testing as any in the country. Considerable stamina was required, not only to meet the rallying requirements, but also to maintain the testing social requirements demanded of visitors to Mull. We were never entirely without problems during this period, but there always seemed to a solution in the goodwill and tolerance that was afforded to the Rally.
There was however one great problem that was not going to go away. The Tour of Mull was a rally held on public roads and the future for such events, wherever they might be held, was bleak and limited. At the beginning of 1987 the end of road rallying, as we all knew it, was announced. The reasons were much the same as those which caused us to desert our home territory in 1968. We were not, however, going to desert Mull before we had explored the only available option. We had a strong, emotional attachment to the Island and the people of Mull and the Rally was, by now, a considerable influence on the Island economy. So it had to be Closed Roads and to have Closed Roads you had to have an Act of Parliament. But how do you get an Act of Parliament ? Drop a line to the P.M. ? Or should it be Mr. Speaker ? Neither of these in fact. You need a friendly, understanding and efficient Regional Council, the support of the Police and the local motorsport authority, the blessing of the community which is affected by your plans and you need to be able to guarantee fairly large sums of money to pay the bills for an Act of Parliament. What you don’t need is organised opposition which, at a conservative estimate, could treble or quadruple the cost. Had there been such opposition in our case we would have abandoned the project sooner rather than later.
We were incredibly lucky to have various factors on our side. Strathclyde Regional Council undertook to promote the Act of Parliament. The Royal Scottish Automobile Club agreed to co-ordinate the process. Strathclyde Police were, as always, supportive. Mull, through the Community Council, was decidedly in favour. The financial guarantees were readily available and there was no opposition at all.
So you might imagine that it would be all plain sailing. Not so. We had to run the gauntlet of lawyers requiring clauses which demanded exorbitant insurance premiums, misunderstandings between seemingly intelligent and definitely highly paid people and maverick M.P.s out to make a political point totally unconnected with OUR Act of Parliament. In the end, but a year behind schedule, the Strathclyde Confirmation Act 1990 reached the Statute Book on March 27th 1990. It would be hard to describe the relief and the satisfaction that was felt by so many people at that time. In the 2300 Club we described it as a triumph of persistence.
The first closed road rally on the U.K. mainland was held on the Island of Mull in October 1990. Again the organisers were very apprehensive about their first venture, but all went well. Subsequently the afternoon forest stages were dropped and replaced by daylight stages which proved extremely popular with competitors and spectators alike. The event has over 170 miles of closed road competition, more, in fact, than many International Rallies and has now been sanctioned to run up to 150 competitors. The Club has not actively sought championship status, opting instead to run the event purely for the loyal clubman rallyist. However, 1996 saw the event back in the Motoring News fold after a break of 9 years when the Philips Tour of Mull was the last qualifying event for the EARS Motoring News Championship. This was the fifth occasion that Philips sponsored the Rally, a happy and appropriate connection that began with the founding of the Club over 40 years ago.
Here are samples of our previous and current 2300 Club logos.
There is a popular book giving the history of the 2300 Club and the Tour of Mull. It is modestly titled "The Best Rally In The World", is written by Brian Molyneux and is available from his son, Neil Molyneux at Walker’s Castle, Hurst Green, Clitheroe, LANCS, . The price is £10.