17 Oct: Part 2 – Mull Rally

Part 2, Tunnocks Mull Rally 2013

Friday 11 October, 09:00 Hrs

There’s a bus party of locusts masquerading as pensioners staying at my hotel. It’s best to keep out of their way. They bag the best seats in the lounge and clog up the bar, but breakfast is the scariest time. The restaurant opens 15 minutes earlier just for them. Don’t stand in the way when the doors open or you’ll get trampled to death under the soft squelch of Dr Scholl’s medicinal crepe soled comfort sandals or swept along on the crest of a blue rinsed wave of lavender water.

Serving themselves at the buffet is a long practiced art. Two plates each and they still have a free hand (how does that work?) to shovel up sausage, bacon and eggs while hubby gets the orange juice and ribena. If you’re not quick enough you’ll get elbows in the stomach, kidneys or more tender regions. No mercy.

Wee Jeanie is the one to avoid, 4 ft 10 of wrinkles and sinews with elbows sharp enough to inflict punctures on Pirelli dump truck tyres. She’s meaner than a bad tempered, hungover Scroot with a smile that would melt steel – and leaves you doubting your senses. Such a sweet old lady wouldn’t do a thing like, would she? Oh yes she would.

And so to Scrutineering – after scraping the ice of the windscreen, but what a glorious start to the day. Sunshine is sweeping across the island like ice cream cuddling a hot apple pie. As for getting news out during the course of the weekend, that will depend entirely on the availability of telephone signals. Here goes.

Friday 11 October, 10:00 Hrs

Calum Duffy was first man through the Tobermory Distillery arch this morning for Scrutineering ahead of this year’s Tunnocks Mull Rally. Despite what he said last night at the Forum, he had a “few issues” this morning, as he explained: “The car was set up as it finished last year, that was the plan. When I drove it this morning it was far too hard. We’ve backed it right off and it’s much better.”

John MacCrone’s car wasn’t far behind with Martin Wilkinson in attendance, so we sorted out a few anomalies. As young Peter Taylor pointed out earlier, it’s not a Millington engine in the car it’s a Duratec. The confusion arose because Malcolm’s co-pilot last March on the car’s debut was John Millington – not Roy Millington the engine builder. In fact, a Millington engine would not fit in the Fiesta S2000 shell as it’s too tall and would require some modifications to the roll-cage. This is in fact a 2 litre Ford Duratec block which has been bored and sleeved to 2.4 litres. It’s still very much work-in-progress so we’ll see how the device goes this weekend.

Paul MacKinnon was an interested spectator, and when asked what he was up to, the twice Mull winner said: “I’m just down here perving at the cars.” He’s not doing the event this year because: “I’ve got too much work and and we’re doing stuff to the house – maybe next year.”

John ‘Cressed Lightning’ Cressey was next through the arch in the German sausage tin (MINI) fresh from 2nd place on the National B Isle of Man Rally – last May: “At my age you can get too much exercise and training, I didn’t want to wear myself out or peak too early for this!”

When Andy Fenwick drove through the arch in the Hyundai Accent WRC, his lighting set-up aroused a lot of interest (see pic) as he’s using a new Lazer lights set up which he sells through his ‘rallylamps.com’ website. “It is LED type technology, but different,” said Andy, “it’s no good for distance but it offers superb white spread up to 150 mtrs. A full set will cost around 1500 quid compared to a traditional six lamp set up and pod which costs around £2000.”

Peter Taylor has the same set-up on his Ford Focus WRC. Like Andy he hasn’t used them in anger yet but agreed that the light spread is superb although the distance is limited: “They won’t suit everyone, because of the limited distance, you have to commit to the Notes much more,” Well, he’s young and brave isn’t he.

Friday 11 October, 11:30 Hrs

For the second year running there was a big shock for the Scrutineers when Eddie O’Donnell turned up at 10.00 am with a car which was ready to run, and not full of bits which needed tightened, replaced or quietened down. And nor was there any members of the Clan O’Donnell following it with toolboxes and spares. Hopefully, he’s sorted out the ‘braking issues’ which he had at the recent shakedown at the Cheviot Stages. “We’ve straightened out a few Otterburn scars,” said Eddie, “but we’ll find out at Dervaig tonight if the brakes work.”

Doug Weir drove the Escort for the first time since last October when he took it for an MOT two weeks ago. “It was a George Gauld MOT, so we got through OK”, said Doug, referring to the former Scottish Rally Championship driver who runs an MOT station in Aberdeen.

Iain ‘Ogg’ MacKenzie should go well tonight. He’s hired Brian Watson’s Evo9, so this will be his first real taste of 4WD after his Fiesta exploits. This was the car that Brian used on last weekend’s Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally, but obviously it’s had the rear suspension arm replaced – which Brian broke.

Speaking of Brian, he’s on Course-Car duty this weekend and he’s wheeled out his Audi Quattro Sport S1. How far he’ll get tonight we don’t know. He’s suffering from a tea cake hangover after taking part in last night’s competition! A few bumps and jumps tonight will sort the old tummy out, or he’ll be caking the driver’s the side of the car with multi-coloured underseal.

Bad news for James MacGillivray though. Last year he got 100 yards into the first stage and it broke down, this year it didn’t even get that far. Last night the cam pulley came off the MkII’s engine. The engine is not very well. He’s retired but he’s given his fuel allocation to Stewart Morrison who was having trouble getting the right fuel.

Ian Chadwick finished 12th o/a on the Cork International last weekend. “It was seriously slippy over there,” said Ian, “we treated that as a bit of a warm-up for the BIG event this weekend.” The Skoda has more torque than the Honda he used last year: “It’s only got about 160 bhp,” he said, “but the torque is much better, pulling all the way from 2500 to 7000 rpm.”

SPECIAL NOTE – Make a date with BBC Landward at the end of this month. The TV crew are here filming a piece on the rally for their countryside programme in between the coos and sheeps. They don’t have a transmission date as yet, but it could be the 29th, so watch out for it.

Friday 11 October, 13:00 Hrs

Could David Mann spring a surprise over the weekend? This will be his first visit to Mull, and it’s been on his list of ‘to-do’ events for years. The Subaru is an ex-Prodrive car and has a brand new engine and turbo in it for this weekend. That’s because it blew the turbo 2 weeks ago at an event in Woodbridge on the very first stage. As co-driver Chris Hamill from Oban quipped: “That was an 1100 mile round trip to do a 5 mile event!”

John Rintoul appeared with his Skoda Fabia and said he’s fitted a new engine since last time out at Crail and Donnie MacDonald is really quite chuffed with his Lancer and his result on the McRae last weekend. “We’ve found out what the trouble was,” said Donnie, “I’ve been complaining about it all year and we took it to a guy in Oxford who spotted the problem right away. Within 5 minutes on the rolling road it was fixed. Full power, full revs and no hiccups. I’m really looking forward to the Galloway Hills – this is just a bit of fun!”

There’s a strange sticker on the side of Richard Cook’s Impreza, it says ‘Marrasalavia’ Motorsport. Apparently the word ‘Marra’ is West Cumbrian for ‘mate’ so Richard and his mates have declared the independent State of Marrasalavia within West Cumbria. So now you know. He also had a nod towards the Lancer of John Morrison which pulled into Scrutineering beside him: “Here comes my nemesis – he beat me by ONE second last year.”

Dave Thwaites’ awfy smart MkII looked different: “My 18 inch wheels have been banned, so I’m on 15s again. Just when I get the car and brakes sorted and handling nicely, they change the rules and I’m back to where I started.”

Also got a complaint from one ‘customer’ at the Forum last night. She was delighted with her tee-shirt prize, even though it had been slightly nibbled by a wee moose! I said I would need to get her another one, but she said no, it added character. Nice one Charlotte.

Friday 11 October, 14:30 Hrs

Here’s an interesting thing. Jeff Horne has downloaded an App to his iPhone called ‘ASE Rally Monitor’ and it replicates, exactly, a Rally Tripmeter with all the large digits and displays. Running off a GPRS signal it looks really authentic and it actually works. Sitting beside Gordon Halley in his MkII, Jeff has the phone velcro’d to the door. He’s not actually relying on it for the rally but is using it as backup and a secondary check on his own position and timekeeping, and it only cost £2.50 apparently. Worth a look for budding rally drivers,eh?

And here’s another tale to stir the hearts and minds of older rallyists. In car number 113 is 18 year old Ruaridh Allan and co-driven by 16 year old Jamie ‘Fred’ MacLean. This will be their first ever rally in their own self-built Vauxhall Nova. It has taken the boys 2 years to build the car: “My Dad has a shop in Dervaig,” said Ruaridh, “and he’s helped a lot of local drivers over the years, so when they heard I was building a car they’ve all helped me. It has been overwhelming, we couldn’t have done this without them.” Asked about what lies ahead, he said: “I’ve got mixed feelings. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but I’m really nervous. When I was a wee boy, I used to run down to the road when the rally cars were passing and put my thumbs up to the drivers, and on the way down here this morning there were lots of kids doing it to me. It’s so strange.”

That’s what it’s all about, eh. Gaun yersel boys, have a good weekend.

Scrutineering is nearly over, just the stragglers to come.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT. Anyone seen a Log Book for Car 52, a white MkII, Reg XYB 465? It was left in the wrong car this morning. If you find it, hand it to a Rally Official please, or to the car’s crew.

Friday 11 October, 16:00 Hrs

Two things before the 2013 Tunncks Mull Rally gets underway at 7 pm tonight. Will Fred fit in Allan’s car and will Ted give Mark a ‘doin’ before the first service halt?

‘Fred’ MacLean is co-driving for Allan MacKay (Car Zero) in the Ford Anglia WRC (Well Run Car!) this weekend, but hasn’t yet sat in the car. That’s because the passenger seat was built for a short anorexic ballerina and Fred, well – isn’t. If he gets into it, at least he won’t need seat belts!

Further back, Mark Runciman will debut his newly built, awfy smart Vauxhall Nova with his Dad Ted alongside. This will be Ted’s first run-out for some years. In fact he did the first ever Mull Rally way back in 1969, Neil Fraser was driving his Hillman Imp and they finished 24th overall that year. Later on Ted became better known for co-driving Tony Blane in the Datsun.

It just shows you though, once bitten by Mull, forever smitten.

Friday 11 October, 20:00 Hrs

The rally is now underway but here on the east side of the island, you wouldn’t know it. All is quiet here at the Garmony Regroup while the first of the 100 crews tackle the first 2 stages to the west, 8 miles in Glen Aros and Achnadrish, followed by 17 miles over the Hill Road and Loch Tuath. ‘FlyingFinish.co.uk’ will have the up to date times but here at Garmony I will try and have a word with the drivers.

It’s cold out there tonight and thank goodness the roads are dry, otherwise they’d be icy. Clear and cloudless skies over Mull with half a moon trying to pierce the dark, and there are other strange noises – the deer are getting frisky.

[Part 1]
[Part 3]
[Part 4]