There were no shock results at the end of the Tunnock’s Mull Rally, but there were a few surprises. Calum and Iain Duffy were widely tipped to do the business, but Duffy wasn’t so convinced: “It’s got a new axle and diff in it since Ireland, we hope that’s cured the problem.” There were also hopes that John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon could beat the ‘old guard’ but MacCrone was more realistic: “Class B will be hard enough to win, and we’ll let the overall result take care of itself.” As for John Cope and Rob Fagg. They came back from fifteenth place on Friday night to clinch the final podium position.
The final times may lead those who have never visited this 300 square miles of weather battered and ruggedly endearing rockery on the eastern edges of the Atlantic Ocean to think that winning was easy. The fools. Just ask Tony Bardy, Tristan Pye, Daniel Harper or Jonathan Mounsey. Just to survive the 153 competitive miles is a heroic achievement. Results are hard earned and seared forever in memory banks.
Friday night got under way under leaden skies and much wetness. It was more a night for warm beds and playing spoons, than going rallying in the dark. And yet even in streaming wet conditions, Duffy opened the scoring over Mishnish Lochs, fastest by 12 seconds from Daniel Harper in the MINI with the Fiesta R2 of MacCrone only one second adrift. The Escort MkII was ahead again on the Hill Road by two seconds from Tony Bardy in the Nissan Sunny GTI-R. Already Cope was in trouble. The Subaru Impreza had broken the front n/s driveshaft on the first stage and had to run through the second to reach service. He was still luckier than James MacGillivray. The Escort was parked up in the first stage with an electrical/fuel problem.
Daniel Harper had a lucky escape too, dropping a bit of time on the second stage: “We hit something in the dark and it broke a wheel – but the tyre stayed up!” And Eddie O’Donnell was skelly-eyed after the first two stages: “There was something on the windscreen before I started and when I hit the wiper switch, it just smeared, I couldn’t see a thing.” John Cressey emerged from the longer test surprised to be in the top ten: “We had a big slide in there and backed off thinking we had a puncture, but we didn’t.” Also in the top ten was Doug Weir: “We’ve got a new 6 speed seq gearbox and a shift light – and I still got it wrong, twice!” More worrying was an incident going past Ulva school: “There was a long wet streak on one side the road and dry on the other. When we hit that, it snatched one way then the other – for a few hundred yards!”
Sadly Iain ‘Ogg’ MacKenzie was out, the Fiesta tumbling off the Hill Road a few hundred yards from the stage start line but fortunately he and Angus were OK.
The rain fell harder over the six stages to the south of the island allowing Tony Bardy to snatch a string of four fastest times in lethal conditions before Calum the Comet lit the afterburners and took a minute and half out of Bardy over 22 miles of rain-slicked and puddled Calgary/Glen Aros with young MacCrone second quickest by half a minute from the Nissan driver. MacCrone’s time was even more impressive considering: “The flat-shift is not working, so I’m having to change gear manually with the clutch.”
Daniel Harper was working miracles with the MINI again and both he and the on-form Jonathan Mounsey pipped Bardy over the long one, so although Bardy was still in second place at the end of the first Leg of 9 tests on Friday night, the opposition was queuing up behind him.
Bardy’s tardiness over the long one was easily explained as he motored into the final Control: “It’s very slippy out there. I had a big slide about 6 or 7 miles in and it took me a while to realise I didn’t have a puncture. I was so slow that I’m surprised to still be in this position.”
John Cressey was outside the top ten in the MINI: “I’ve had the car for 18 months, and never driven it in the rain – and this isn’t the place to learn!” Alistair Inglis cruised in to the final Control: “I’ve got red lights showing on the dash and it’s running very hot, I think it’s the head gasket.” And Doug Weir looked a bit sheepish: “Aye it looks alright from the front, but you should see the back. We went off and lost the bootlid and smacked the rear corner.”
But the luckiest man on the island that night? It was Calum: “We finished Gribun on dipped headlights after the alternator mounting bracket broke,” and the team was faced with a lash-up to get through the final stage. The result was a contraption of Heath Robinson beauty. Using a plastic tree wedge to jam between the engine and the alternator, the team had tied it in place with tie-wraps and tensioned it with fence wire. Calum was fair pleased with their efforts and proud of the boys.
Second luckiest was John Cope: “The bolts came out of the rear diff over Gribun and we just managed to tighten them up before the start of Calgary, making the start with seconds to spare.”
Top Ten after 9 (of 17 stages)
1 Calum Duffy/Iain Duffy (Ford Escort MkII) 59m 37s
2 Tony Bardy/Neil Colman (Nissan Sunny GTI-R) 1h 01m 28s
3 John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R2) 1h 01m 38s
4 Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (MINI) 1h 01m 47s
5 Jonathan Mounsey/Richard Wardle (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) 1h 02m 11s
6 Lewis Gallagher/Nigel Dodds (Subaru Impreza) 1h 02m 18s
7 Eddie O’Donnell Jnr/Eddie O’Donnell Snr (Ford Escort MkII) 1h 03m 26s
8 John Cope/Rob Fagg (Subaru Impreza) 1h 03m 34s
9 Tristan Pye/Andrew Falconer (Subaru Impreza) 1h 03m 47s
10 Billy Bird/Plug Pulleyn (Vauxhall Chevette) 1h 04m 22s
Intermittent showers greeted the crews on the daylight section with Duffy holding a near 2 minute lead over Bardy who had a mere 10 seconds on MacCrone. Even so, Bardy was relishing the fight: “I’m usually on my way home by this time,” he quipped, but an overnight change of gearbox had been needed after a tooth broke: “It’s an old ‘gravel’ box so the ratios are a bit shorter,” said Bardy.
Bardy and Cope set fastest time over the first daylight stage with MacCrone fastest over the next two before Bardy rounded off his afternoon’s work with another fastest, a time shared with Lewis Gallagher first time out in his new Subaru.
Duffy was still there though, just picking his own pace and taking no risks: “At least in daylight you can see the standing water, at night’s it’s lethal.”
Daniel Harper suffered another cruel stroke of luck on the last stage which dropped him out of fourth place: “We punctured and had to stop and change it, then broke a driveshaft,” and Peter Taylor was out, the Focus struck down with gearbox disease.
Lying sixth after Friday night Jonathan Mounsey got a fright in Gribun: “We went off over a crest at 120 mph. The car went light and the tail just stepped out and we ran out of opposite lock. It was stuck with its tail in a ditch and the nose pointing at the sky. We just fired it up and drove out. Lucky. REALLY lucky.” Then on the last test of the afternoon he dropped over 2 minutes: “A turbo pipe came off, we went from 300 hp to 100 hp!”
Having changed a fuel pump Tristan Pye took over sixth place behind Lewis Gallagher with Eddie O’Donnell in seventh and ruing the fact that he had “bad company” in the house overnight: “I had David Bogie, and Jock Gray from Coltness, staying in the house, that was bad news!” he also had a front puncture over the Lochs but managed to drive out on it.
Billy Bird had also moved into the top ten: “I’ve got me nuts tightened now,” he said referring to the incident the previous night when a vibrating prop shaft was loosening the Hardy Spicer nuts: “and hopefully I won’t need to fiddle with me nuts today!”
Just outside the top ten were the air-horn tootling Curly Haigh and Alistair Inglis, surprisingly still going: “We tightened the cylinder head last night and then fitted a new head gasket before the Saturday noon re-start – and we’re still going.” Dave Miller who had earlier survived a wee oil leak (near the turbo!) lost a bit more time with a puncture, having to stop and change it in the Lochs.
Top Ten after 13 (of 17 stages)
1 Calum Duffy/Iain Duffy (Ford Escort MkII) 1h 38m 19s
2 Tony Bardy/Neil Colman (Nissan Sunny GTI-R) 1h 40m 03s
3 John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R2) 1h 40m 26s
4 John Cope/Rob Fagg (Subaru Impreza) 1h 42m 38s
5 Lewis Gallagher/Nigel Dodds (Subaru Impreza) 1h 42m 40s
6 Tristan Pye/Andrew Falconer (Subaru Impreza) 1h 43m 03
7 Eddie O’Donnell Jnr/Eddie O’Donnell Snr (Ford Escort MkII) 1h 43m 26s
8 Jonathan Mounsey/Richard Wardle (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) 1h 44m 21s
9 Billy Bird/Plug Pulleyn (Vauxhall Chevette) 1h 45m 23s
10 John Cressey/Martin Cressey (MINI) 1h 45m 37s
By the time of the Saturday night third Leg start, the clouds had given way to clear skies and starlight, but the roads remained greasy and threatening. Duffy still had a 1m 44s lead over Bardy who had eked out a 23 second lead over MacCrone, who promptly went fastest on the first test of the night, by 24 seconds from Duffy and by 30 seconds from Bardy! Game on.
If speeds in tricky conditions had been crazy to this point, they now became quite lunatic, with everyone catching the fever including, unfortunately, Tony Bardy. Having set fastest time over Stage 15, he rolled the Nissan in the next one, and there was no way back. Tragic. He wasn’t alone. Billy Bird broke a half shaft, Stepehn Lockhart broke a driveshaft, Dave Miller blew his turbo and Curly Haigh parked the Escort in a ditch. He was still laughing though: “It was just so wet and greasy, the tail slid out on a hairpin, and I caught it, then it went the other way, and there was no room left.”
Lewis Gallagher ruined an excellent top six result when he slid off and dropped to eighth place, inadvertently delaying Tristan Pye, but Tristan still clung on to fourth place overall. The O’Donnell twins were rewarded with an excellent fifth place just ahead of the great survivor, Jonathan Mounsey. John Cressey just managed to score seventh ahead of Gallagher while Mull virgin Alistair Inglis must be congratulated on ninth with his hot and bothered Lancer and Daniel Harper salvaged a place on the calendar with tenth place at the finish.
Duffy’s regal progress continued over the final two stages to clinch his seventh win on the island while MacCrone suffered a last minute scare on the final stage: “We hit something hard in the dark. I don’t know what it was. We could see John Cope’s lights catching as we waited for the tyre to go down. It didn’t.” As for John Cope, his huge grin at the finish said it all, staging a tremendous fightback to salvage the final podium place.
At the floodlit finish in Dervaig village, a delighted and somewhat relieved Calum said: “What a talent young John (MacCrone) is, but I’ll be back next year. I don’t want to make it easy for him. Neil MacKinnon has done it to me for years, so it’s my turn to do it to John.”
Tunnock’s Mull Rally
1 Calum Duffy/Iain Duffy (Ford Escort MkII) 2h 25m 34s
2, John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R2) 2h 27m 41s
3, John Cope/Rob Fagg (Subaru Impreza) 2h 31m 01s
4, Tristan Pye/Andrew Falconer (Subaru Impreza) 2h 31m 50s
5, Eddie O’Donnell Jnr/Eddie O’Donnell Snr (Ford Escort RS) 2h 34m 00s
6, Jonathan Mounsey/Richard Wardle (Mitsubishi Evo 6) 2h 35m 10s
7, John Cressey/Martin Cressey (MINI S) 2h 35m 27s
8, Lewis Gallagher/Nigel Dodds (Subaru Impreza) 2h 35m 51s
9, Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis (Mitsubishi Evo 5) 2h 37m 13s
10, Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell, (MINI S) 2h 37m 17s
A, Stephen Thompson/Darren Thompson (Vauxhall Nova) 2:51:41
B, John MacCrone/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R2)
C, Doug Weir/Duncan Brown (Ford Escort MKII) 2h 38m 36s
D, Calum Duffy/Iain Duffy (Ford Escort MkII)
H3, Jim McDowall/Charlotte McDowall (Hillman Avenger) 2:54:37
H5, Andrew Smith/Neil Colls (Ford Escort MkII) 2:50:05