17 Oct: Part 4 – Mull Rally

Part 4, Tunnocks Mull Rally 2013

Saturday 12 October, 21:45 Hrs

It’s all getting a bit fraught out there tonight. It’s getting cold and damp, that means slippery and uncertain.

First to find that out was Peter Taylor. He spun the Focus on the slippery tarmac and gave away a minute to MacCrone. He’s still second and still 4 mins clear of Bardy, so he’s lost no position, but has he lost all hope of catching the leader?

Tony Bardy is third moving ahead of Eddie O’Donnell after his puncture, but Eddie has bounced back taking 5 secs off the Nissan pilot on the first stage of the night to close the gap to third place to just ONE second. Otherwise the top ten places remain very similar.

However there is a sting in the tail. The final stage of the night is the epic 22.5 mile thrash through Loch Tuath and over Calgary Bay. This is where legends can be made and reputations destroyed. Forget Corsica and the WRC, this is a real rally, although I might be ever so slightly biaised.

Sunday 13 October, 02:00 Hrs

There isn’t any other rally that finishes with champagne – and a pie, but the Tunnocks Mull Rally did in the early hours of this morning. Whilst the winning car was dosed with sparkly, Fergus and Karen Tunnock dispensed Tunnocks pies to the crews, including the winners.

Scoring an emphatic first victory on home soil were John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon. At a tear streaked and champagne soaked finish, the MacCrone family were there in force to share in John’s success: “It’s unbelievable,” he said, “first time out in a 4WD car. It’s been bloody difficult to get here, but my ultimate ambition still remains, to win the Tunnocks Mull Rally in a MkII.”

He added: “The guys at CA1 did a brilliant job all weekend. This was a fair car to drive and I’m so grateful for the opportunity. It was also so much fun.”

Peter Taylor scored a superb second and was very philosophical at the finish. At the start of the Final Leg there was a glimmer of victory: “That first stage tonight, it was either bin it or get a shitload of time back, and all I got was a pathetic off! The front dampers were going off and with 5 miles to go on the last stage, my brakes were gone.”Even so it was remarkable run for the youngster.

Eddie O’Donnell equalled his best result, third in 1997, to win the top 2WD award and said: “I’m just happy to finish without a problem. In the past it has been trivial wee things that have tripped us up, but we were lucky tonight too. When the starter motor failed, James MacGillivray and Roy Jarvis got me a replacement.”

The victors were greeted by a huge and noisy crowd at Dervaig, Calum’s home town. It seemed they had all turned out to greet the Fiesta as it crossed the bridge and under the Tunnocks arch to rapturous applause. A popular victory indeed, and John paid due tribute to Calum Duffy: “It would have been nice to see him here at the finish, and have a fight all the way, but I rally felt for them when I saw the car off in Ardtun and Del trying to heave the thing back on the road.”

And so to bed. Weary, wabbit and worn out, but what a rally.

Provisional leaderboard after 19 (of 19) stages:
1, J MacCrone, 2h 21m 43s
2, P Taylor, 2h 25m 40s
3, E O’Donnell, 2h 29m 30s
4, T Bardy, 2h 29m 37s
5, T Pye, 2h 30m 11s
6, J Mounsey, 2h 33m 34s
7, A Gardiner, 2h 33m 57s
8, R Cook, 2h 34m 35s
9, P Gibson, 2h 35m 10s
10, Curly Haigh, 2h 36m 04s

Sunday 13 October, 10:00 Hrs

After 3 days of island life plus the added spice of intense competition, high speed and even higher drama, I actually experienced the first tinge of home sickness this morning. At the breakfast buffet, I noticed this one solitary sausage which had been deliberately discarded by all who went before. It sat there in its own wee puddle of grease, black and overcooked, and I instantly thought of home. It was burnt to the correct colour and degree of crispness, and the bitter, dry taste of charcoal instantly transported me back to my own wee but and ben. It even had that faint aromatic hint of singed pork betraying its origins.

But there is still much to be done before the 2013 Tunnocks Mull Rally can be officially concluded for this year. For a start there is the victory parade down Tobermory Main Street followed by the outdoor prizegiving and presentation at 2 pm. I even saw Fergus out for an early morning stroll along the harbour in the glorious autumn sunshine practicing his one hour oration of thanks to islanders and organisers. Only kidding, he assures me it won’t last much longer than 30 seconds!

But back to the early hours and a story that has captivated all who read it. The boys were back in town, or Dervaig to be precise. Ruaridh Allan and young Fred MacLean finished the rally. They were classified in 63rd place out of the 64 finishers. They weren’t last, and they have apparently cracked this rallying lark. They have a 100% finishing record. That won’t last, and as we all know only too well, years of heartbreak must inevitably follow, because that is the way of rallying. The only thing that keeps us all going is the occasional finish, the even less occasional prize, the even more infrequent ‘high’ and the unstinting support of friends and family. In other words, it’s downhill all the way for the boys, eh. Only kidding. They both epitomise this sport. Enthusiasm, hard work, determination and an appreciation of Scottish rallying’s motto: “We’re here for a good time, not a long time!”

Mind you, there was much heartbreak in that final stage just a few short hours ago. The Sheriff put the tractor off when a bottom arm snapped having miraculously made it this far. Probably just tiredness catching up with old age. Billy Bird broke a halfshaft, David Mann slid off, Ian Chadwick blew the engine, Matt Tarbutt broke a driveshaft, Allan ‘the bale shifter’ Cameron put it off and Ian Shiells in the Honda engined BMW broke his throttle cable. And after nursing a disintegrating gearbox throughout that final loop, Jim McDowall eventually had to admit defeat and retired when it broke completely almost within smelling distance of the Tunnocks pies at the finish.

This sport certainly has its highs, but its lows can be terrible. All that way just to retire on the final stage.

And if the rally crews are the heroes of this huge and epic drama, then the Marshals are the stars. There are never enough Marshals on any event these days, so those who do turn up are asked to do more. Invariably they do. Our sport owes a huge debt to each and every single one of them, even Keith Cowan. We salute you all.

Monday 14 October, 11:00 Hrs

First of all, I’m really flattered. Thank you one and all for all the kind messages and compliments here on Facebook, and also the cheery shouts and severial slaggings across the streets of Tobermory and Salen about my black sausage. It would appear that my motorised drivel has gone down well with rally folks. I even had messages from Brazil and oil rigs in the North Sea. I am quite simply stunned by the reach of this electronic ethereal budgie chatter media phenomenon.

My apologies for not replying individually, but there simply wasn’t time. Given the constraints of the time schedule and closed roads it is very hard at times to get ahead of the rally, collect a few stories and quotes, write them up and then find a phone signal! During the event itself I can speak only to the top 20 or 30 before having to move on, and the only time I catch up with everyone is at the re-starts and finish.

As for finding signals, my thanks to Gerry at the Salen Hotel for allowing me to sit on his stairs and use his wi-fi, the Isle of Mull Hotel who didn’t know what I was doing, the staff at Tigh Solais in Tobermory and Big Ade at the Aros Hall who left the wi-fi switched on allowing me to sit on the bench outside and hook up in the early hours even when the Hall was locked up.

In fact this was the reason for the old style print ‘MullMurmurs’ being stopped. Having a print centre in one location and having to get information from the rally back to that central point in time to get typed up, printed and distributed ahead of the rally again proved impossible. So despite its failings, the internet is perhaps the only real outlet left – provided you can get a signal.

I’ll tell you what though, it was funny to see a group of spectators with only one of them getting a signal and reading out the story of the moment to his/her pals who couldn’t get a signal cos they were on another tariff!

And just to bring my main wee story up to date. I know there were lots of youngsters out there rallying at the weekend, and I only met Ruaridh and Fred for the first time on Friday, but they epitomised all that is rallying. Fun, enthusiam and a love of their sport. But did you know that when they cracked their manifold on Saturday afternoon and were in danger of going out, the Duffy boys (men!) helped them to weld it and fix it. Calum and Iain getting their sleeves rolled up to help to help the stars of the future. That to me sums up the spirit of Mull.

There are however two folk I won’t miss. The Polis next door to me who woke me in the early hours, trying to get the sheep out of his room. Either it was a full set of trotters on the parquet floor or two pairs of stilleto heels! And then there was the guy on the other side who is so taken by all the options on his not-so-smart phone that his alarm signal mimicked a fire bell. At 6 am this morning, I was up like an electric shock, one leg in my breeks, hopping around on the other looking for my wallet before I realised what it was. May all his door handles fall off his hoose when he gets home and may his butt plug be forever cemented in.

But here’s the thing. A lot of younger folks stopped to have a word yesterday. Apparently they enjoyed the updates, and according to them, I am now officially ‘cool’ because of my Facebook presence. How ‘cool’ is that?

Monday 14 October, 12 Noon

The biggest problem of the weekend? Trying to write an 800 word report (plus 400 words on the Classes) for Wednesday’s ‘Motor Sports News’.

Personally I think this unique event merits a double page spread at least, if not 4 pages ideally to do it justice, but that’s just my opinion, and I might be ever so slightly biased.

Whatever, only you can decide whether I’ve managed to do it justice or not when you pick up Wednesday’s paper. In the meantime, here is a ScreenSaver – is there no end to my bountiful generosity … Bye, Bye, Mull.

[Part 1]
[Part 2]
[Part 3]

( Note: Dates are correct but timings are approximate )