17 Oct: Part 3 – Mull Rally

Part 3, Tunnocks Mull Rally 2013

Friday 11 October, 20:45 Hrs

First times are in. No surprises, Calum Duffy is flying. 7m 57s for the 2013 Tunnocks Mull opener. John MacCrone is second, first time out in the Fiesta with 8m 08s. Peter Taylor going well on 8m 11, but it’s fast and furious behind him. Daniel Harper 8m 25, Eddie O’Donnell 8m 27s, Tristan Pye 8m 28s and Tony Bardy 8m 32s.

The first course car has just come through Garmony Regroup, Allan MacKay’s Anglia – so Fred must be in the passenger seat after all – he didn’t get out to stretch his legs anyway!

Friday 11 October, 21:00 Hrs

There’s a turn up for the book. Steven Ronaldson in the Metro 6R4 has just posted 8th equal fastest time over SS1 tying with Tristan Pye in the Subaru. There is no sign of John Cope amongst the top times, but there are reports of a white Subaru off the road above Dervaig.

Friday 11 October, 21:15 Hrs

And here’s another surprise. Running second course car Brian Watson in the German tractor (Audi Quattro S1) has just clocked into Garmony. That’s 25 miles of stages and the thing is still in one piece – shockaroony.

Friday 11 October, 21:30 Hrs

Calum Duffy leads John MacCrone by 15 seconds after the first two stages but neither seems concerned, both settling in before deciding how hard to push next. Already the pursuit is more than half a minute behind.

Calum said: “I was a bit erratic in SS1, but better in 2. The front tyres are fine but we were expecting to have to throw rears at it if the weather stayed dry, and it looks as though we were right, the rears were going off towards the end of that last one.”

John said: “I’m, pretty happy. The set up is not quite right, it’s twitchy on the fast stuff and crashing out over the yumps but it’s not bad for a guess. The power is good, it’s off the scale compared to anything I’ve driven before.”

Peter Taylor is third, but had a wee problem at the start of the 2nd stage: “I stalled it four times off the line. There seems to be a glitch in the Launch Control, or I just can’t get it off the line.”

Overhead in the clear skies a natural fireworks display of stars are twinkling over the stars of cars and tar down below. The roads are dry-ish, as dew near the coast is starting to coat the surfaces. Perfect rallying weather.

Friday 11 October, 21:45 Hrs

Eddie O’Donnell is currently holding 4th place after 2 stages and said his 18 year old co-driver (19 tomorrow) Matt Ratcliffe, is doing well, but Eddie was more concerned about skid marks on the road. They were Daniel Harper’s: “It was effen slippy. I was off at he 2nd big rock round Dervaig. I had to stop and back out to get going again.”

Sixth behind those two is Tristan Pye but lost time on SS2 with an overheating clutch and Iain Ogg MacKenzie’s 7th place at present is quite remarkable. He had not spotlamps and no main beam over those two stages – just dipped headlamps!

Lewis Gallagher is 8th and Tony Bardy just settling in nicely in ninth with Alan Gardiner rounding off the top ten in his tasty MkI. But remember these are times of the first cars through and not necessarily an accurate top ten. Remember, Ronaldson, the number 43 seed, is going like stink.

Friday 11 October, 22:00 Hrs

John Cope’s Subaru is parked up near the church graveyard at Dervaig. It would appear that the car is intact, although conflicting reports suggest that it is either a wheel/suspension problem or a gearbox. Looks like Donnie MacDonald is out of the running too, the Lancer spotted parked up in SS2.

John ‘Cressed Lightning’ Cressey is struggling a wee bit with the MINI: “It’s torque steering very badly, but we’ll get that sorted. It’s got more torque than me!” Yeah, right.

David Mann hasn’t rallied for nearly two years but settling in very nicely and Andy Fenwick was pleased with his pace on the first stage but was backing off too much in the second: “This is some place,” he commented.

Friday 11 October, 22:15 Hrs

It’s too early to make a statement that 1 & 2 are cancelled, merely stopped to clear the road. Remember, the roads can only be closed for no more than 4 hours at a time depending on which road and its length. So stages are stopped, rather than cancelled. This is one of the ever present problems when running a closed road rally.

Friday 11 October, 22:30 Hrs

SS1 and 2 stopped after Donnie MacDonald went off. It took a while to clear the road and there was a lot of Donnie’s oil on the road surface so the organisers had little choice but to stop the stages (not cancel) so that they could get the rest of the competitors back on schedule.

8 crews missed out on going through the first stage but quite a few more missed out on running through 2. And that’s the problem with closed road rallies. You can’t afford delays and you can’t make up time, so you just have to cut and run to get back on schedule. It may not be fair, but you can always blame the politicians.

Worst affected was obviously Steven Ronaldson as the ‘notional time’ is unlikely to have been as good as his potential actual time given the pace he went through the first stage.

On the way to Salen just before midnight the ‘ice alert’ in my official press car Mazda 6 Tourer boinged, so temperatures are now officially below 4 degrees and still falling. But by goad the stars are pretty, there’s squillions of them up there.

Next update will be in the early hours, so don’t wait up.

Saturday 12 October, 03:00 Hrs

The big story of the night concerns that man Duffy. It looks like he’s out, the Escort parked off the the road in a ditch at the end of a long straight in Ardtun. It’s a tricky wee devil that 2.6 miler, all types of surface, twisty, fast and technical, and that’s just when it’s dry. Whether Calum had a problem before that or not we don’t know as yet, but there are marks on the road which suggest the car snapped and spun, and he has lodged a report to the organisers that an alternator fault stopped the car. Whatever, we’ll need to wait till he extricates the car to find out what went wrong.

That means John MacCrone is now in the lead. “I’m starting to get the feel of the car now, or at least I was, till I saw Calum off,” said John, “The suspension is better but it’s still twitchy on the fast bits, but we’re getting it sorted. Over-riding concern tonight was that I had to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Driving this car is one of those lifetime opportunities. There was a touch of ice in that last stage too, just towards the end.”

Peter Taylor is up to second place now in the Focus and he definitely thinks there is ice out there. “I touched the brakes and it went sideways, instantly,” he said.

Eddie O’Donnell is up to third place and has lost the Escort’s rear silencer box on the last couple of miles on the final Stage 7 of the night. He’s also got issues with his starter and despite changing the starter motor at service it’s still not too keen on firing up at times.

Daniel Harper is fourth and came up with the best description of Ardtun: “It’s a bitty, shitty, scrabbly wee stage.” He’s still smiling though.

Saturday 12 October, 03:30 Hrs

Andy Fenwick is out of the rally too, the Hyundai up to its axles in a bog in Scridain and Bruce Edwards has parked up the Darrian with a mechanical problem. He will need to wait till daylight to see what has gone wrong though.

Tristan Pye is happier in fifth place now that he has fixed his clutch problem. It would appear that the anti-lag system was cutting in too early, hence the overheating, but it was fixed at service. Tony Bardy is sixth but not at peace with the world. He just can’t get into it tonight he says.

Lewis Gallagher is speeding up in his Impreza as he beds in his new gearbox and Iain Ogg MacKenzie is consolidating his 8th place now that he has all his lights working.

lan Gardiner is ninth in the MkI while Grum Willcock is going well lying tenth in the Manta.

But the big problems tonight are not just the hard and fast conditions, but the appearance of ice as temperatures drop – they just don’t know where the ice is lying!

Saturday 12 October, 09:30 Hrs

Breakfast was an entirely civilised affair this morning. It was a pensioner-free zone and the car park was tour-bus-less this morning. The coffee was also weaker this morning, pouring easily from the pot. Yesterday it had to climb out fearful of being greeted by toothless gums or clacking gnashers. The chatter was also much more bearable, wheelnuts across the porridge and flat over jumps and bacon.

Having said that, there were some doubters out there who thought my Friday morning tale rather far fetched. But it was entirely true. Just ask Hamish Kinloch and his crew, they are staying here too and when they read this entirely true account of my breakfasting adventures yesterday they recognised the establishment instantly without me revealing the name!

As for Hamish, this is his first Mull as a driver, and all he could say at breakfast this morning was: “Phew, I’m glad I got through that last night.” And this from a man who has serviced for various folk for years up here but is ‘doing’ the rally for the first time, so he should have been aware of the challenge. He lies 47th o/a after Leg 1.

There was however an incident last night on the Grubun stage (SS8) when the Honda Civic of Neil Redford and Lorna Weir left the road just before the chicane. Hidden in the dark outer limits of the headlamp illuminescence was a rather deep ditch. Turns out it was bigger than a Honda. It was a nasty one and Lorna had to be taken to the hospital at Salen where a broken collarbone was diagnosed, otherwise she’s fine. Neil was OK and the Honda is looking rather sorry for itself.

Andy Horne was spectating last night and provided some supervisory counselling in the Ronaldson camp at service where Steven was replacing the Metro’s rear anti-roll bar. Even with his ‘notional’ time in th second stage, the valiant Metro pilot is still 16th o/a. That’s one up for old technology, eh.

There was another guest staying in our hotel this weekend. A certain Mike Dilger, BBC TV’s wildlife expert. Apparently he’s putting it about that he’s up here on sea eagle watch but this is a smokescreen. He is really here to try and catch sight of ‘ralliaticus metallica vehicularis’ an endangered species which is mostly nocturnal in these parts. This afternoon he is hoping to catch a glimpse of these creatures at their annual ritual of competitive mating. This exciting ritual has been seen by few folk over the years, but Mike remains ever hopeful. So if you see him out and about point him in the right direction.

Honest, would I lie to you, it really is him and he really is here. Crikey what’s going on? BBC Landward is still on the island too.

Saturday 12 October, 11:45 Hrs

I was the bearer of good news this morning at the Garmony re-start gathering ahead of Leg 2 of this year’s Tunnocks Mull Rally. Calum and Iain Duffy were there with the MkII. Calum thought he was 88th overall at the overnight halt, but I was able to inform that he was actually 87th. He was thoroughly reinvigorated and encouraged by these glad tidings.

Anyway, suitably encouraged myself I ventured forth and asked what happened last night. Equally forthright was the response: “I f*ck*d up. It was the end of a long straight in Ardtun and I braked just a bit later than I normally do and got one wheel on the gravel at the road edge. That was it, the car just snapped into a complete 360 and landed in a ditch on top of a gatepost. It was my own fault.”

“The diff had beached on top of the gatepost and even with Del pushing it wouldn’t budge. But he’s just got wee short legs so I got out and he drove and tried to push but it was going nowhere. Eventually enough spectators turned up and pushed us out. But a rosejoint on the alternator bracket had broken so the car was still going nowhere.”

The car has now been refettled and Calum will be assuming a top ten running order position despite his current overall placing (on safety grounds). He winked at me: “We’re going for a top 50 finish,” he said, but Iain also winked: “Do you think a top ten finish is out of the question?”

In other words good people, be prepared for some extraordinary antics on this 44th running of the best rally in the world on this sun kissed bit of rockery just off the west coast. There will be fireworks this afternoon, but at ground level.

MacCrone leads by 1m 17s after 7 stages from Peter Taylor and Fast Eddie, but a minute and a half covers the next seven runners. If you’re out watching, stand well back.

Saturday 12 October, 14:00 Hrs

Unfortunately Leg 2 of the rally started with a bit of a crash, bang and a wallop this afternoon, causing delays and frustration.he arrival of good weather brings out the worst in rally drivers, thoroughly bemused by all this grip they get underfoot, or under tyre, as the case may be. But when they do run out of grip the consequences are rather more severe than when speeds are lower in inclement weather.

John Cressey was first, crashing the MINI out on the first stage of the afternoon at Scridain, and Dave Miller was next having a bang and wallop between two rather large rocks in Gribun. The good news is that the safety cages in both cars did their jobs and the four crew members are OK.

John MacCrone continues to lead but Peter Taylor was fastest on both opening tests. The Focus driver took 6 seconds out of the Fiesta on Scridain and then beat the Bogey (by 2 secs) in Gribun taking another 3 out of MacCrone. The gap remains at just over a minute after 9 (of 19) stages.

“We were on the rev limiter for a lot of the time in both stages,” said a remarkably calm and composed MacCrone, “we’ve got the tyres working well, and another couple of clicks on the suspension should just complete the set-up.” Now we all know he’s got the ideal car for the rally, but remember this is his first proper competitive run out in a 4WD machine – which is not his! It belongs to a chap called Malcolm who lives in Cumbria!

Peter Taylor is driving within himself too: “I could have gone quicker through Gribun, but I could see the sea down below – and the tide was in.”

Eddie O’Donnell is still third and top 2WD car in the Escort with his co-driver celebrating his 19th birthday today. Happy birthday Matt.

Fourth is Daniel Harper in the sister car to Cressey’s: “That’s the quickest I’ve ever gone up those first two this afternoon,” he said, “we’ve got the suspension sorted. That’s the first time we went to bed on the first night without sore *rs*s.” I didn’t ask for any more detail!

Tristan Pye is up to fifth and Tony Bardy sixth ahead of Ogg MacKenzie. Lewis Gallagher is 8th even with a loose knob. This is a reference to his new gearbox to which he has fitted the wrong knob because the right one wasn’t supplied, although the supplier (one T Pye Esq) claims differently!

Alan Gardiner is 9th and rounding off the top ten is Richard Cook who is also the leading Group N car in his Subaru.

Following the accident in SS9, the stage had to be cancelled because spectators started moving on the stage after the delay thereby preventing the organisers from sending the rest of the cars through! So spectators are urged to be careful and considerate. When roads are closed by Act of Parliament it is against the law to drive on them (technically even walk on them) until the road has been officially re-opened. The Polis haven’t booked any jaywalkers – yet!

Saturday 12 October, 15:30 Hrs

It’s tee shirt weather here on Mull, hard to believe it’s October in Scotland, but if it’s warm outside, it’s bluidy scorching inside the cars on this 44th Tunnocks Mull Rally.

Over the first loop of Mishnish, Hill Road and Killiemore tests this afternoon, young Peter Taylor is continuing to nibble away at John MacCrone’s lead. He has taken a further 5, 5 and 7 seconds out of the margin to leave the gap at 51 seconds with another loop of the same three tests to come before the end of this Leg 2.

Fast Eddie continues to hold third place from Harper, Bardy and Pye, but I tell you what, the star of the show is Callum Duffy as he continues his fightback from 87th, at least he would do if he wasn’t showboating, and he’s still setting top six times!

Richard Cook continues to lead Group N and leaving John Morrison shaking his head. John won the category last year by a second from Cookie, “but I can’t look at him today.” When asked what his secret was, Cookie revealed: “Porridge for breakfast yesterday morning and again this morning.” Methinks he’s dosing the stuff with Red Bull.

Ian Chadwick in the Skoda Fabia leads Class B and Kev Dunn in his Nova leads Class A.

Sadly Steven Ronaldson is now out, the Metro developing a mechanical problem on the Hill Road and the lads have just left service with the trailer!

And yes, I know I said last night John Cope was out with a gearbox problem, but that was the ‘official’ reason. As he admitted on his own Facebook page, the Subaru was missing a rear wheel when he pulled over. But then I suppose you could argue that the gearbox is connected to the wheels! Oh please yourselves.

And as for Curly Haigh he’s taking the idea of racing boots to new heights. They look like a pair of gallumphers last used by Ranulph Fiennes climbing Everest! All the better to press the loud pedal, eh.

Saturday 12 October, 17:00 Hrs

Now here’s a rare problem on Mull. The low winter sunshine was blinding the drivers coming up the Hill Road late this afternoon. Never have you seen such a motely collection of sun glasses, from carboard cut outs with sweetie papers to Boots specials, and even some glamorous shades from all the top brand labels, like Lidl, Aldi and Poundshop. Whatever, it’s been that sort of afternoon. High speeds and huge crowds, especially over Mishnish.

John MacCrone put pedal to metal on the second loop of those three tests over Mishnish, Hill Road and Killimor. “That was much better,” said John, “We had a good tyre and decided to push. Peter took a bit of time out of us earlier and the car felt good. I think we’ve taken about 10 seconds off the Mishnish record over there as well,” adding, “the crowds were brilliant especially in Mishnish.”

Looking a wee bit dejected, Peter Taylor was being hard on himself: “I stalled it again in that middle one of the last three,”” dropping 11 seconds to MacCrone in one stage alone.” And perhaps he tried to hard in the last one: “I had some huge moments in there.” The grin was back at the recollection.

Eddie O’Donnell is still third but the gap to Tony Bardy has been reduced: “I got a puncture over the Lochs,” said Eddie, “a lot of stones had been pulled out over the first loop of stages, and I think it just nicked a stone.” That cost him over 20 seconds to Bardy.

Tristan Pye is still fifth from Alan Gardiner, Leiws Gallagher, Jonathan Mounsey, Richard Cook and Peter Gibson moving into the top ten in his Lancer.

And now day turns to night. Once more the crews will battle the gods of darkness on this mad mental dash around the sinuous, tortuous tarmac of this sainted isle. This battle is far from over. There are still 50 miles of stages left to determine the winner of the 2013 Tunnocks Mull Rally. Anything can happen out there tonight.

There is just one other point, MacCrone is carrying an injury. You should see the size of the blister on his right hand. It nearly put me off my tea. But this is steak pie night in the Salen Hotel – nae chance!

Saturday 12 October, 18:00 Hrs

And here’s a tale to warm the bearings of an all steel bottom end. Remember the two youngsters I told you about many stories ago? Running car number 113 are 18 year old Ruaridh Allan and 16 year old Fred Maclean Jnr. This is their first ever rally and they are doing it in a wee Nova that they have spent two years building themselves. Well, they are still going.

They finished Leg 2 when the car ‘chugged’ out of the last stage this afternoon with a misfire. That means there is work to be done before the start of Leg 3 at 9 pm tonight. Even better, they’re not last, they are 66th out of a field of 70 survivors. Gaun yersels boys.

And speaking of survivors, the pre-rally odds of Brian Watson and Caroline Will getting this far were astronomical. Well here they are again, 107 miles so far and the German tractor (Audi Quattro S1) is still going and still sounding good. The Sheriff has been awfy sensible and taking his Course Car duties seriously, and that’s another surprise, but full marks to him, he’s entertained the crowds and swept the roads.

Allan MacKay and Fred MacLean (Fred Jnr’s Dad) are also still going well running car 0 in the Ford Anglia.

Speaking of entertainers, Mr Duffy may not be appearing tonight. Earlier on SS12, the Escort developed a fault and with nothing at stake, Calum pulled the car off to the side. If he turns up the crowds are in for a treat, if not, then there is still the battle at the front to be decided.

Let’s all wish for a safe night of rallying ahead, and the temperature is dropping.

[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 4]