1996 – Murmur Chapter 10

MULLMURMURSMULLMURMURSMULLMURMURS – Chapter 10

– published on the island, during the event by Jaggy Bunnet

Final Results:

Posn Driver/Co-Driver Car Hrs.Mins:Secs
1 Neil MacKinnon/Mike Stayte Subaru Legacy 2.40:32
2 Chris Griffiths/Stephen Griffiths Subaru Legacy 2.41:28
3 John Price/Mike Bowen MG Metro 6R4 2.46:00
4 Eddie O'Donnell/Eddie O'Donnell Ford Escort 2.47:46
5 Billy Bird/Plug Pulleyn Vauxhall Astra RWD 2.55:05
6 Gordon Boyd/Stella Boyles Ford Escort Cosworth 2.56:03
7 Steve Davies/Simon Proud Ford Escort 2.56:43
8 James MacGillivray/Brian Kennedy Opel Corsa 2.56:45
9 Gareth Jones/Lee Ellis Ford Escort 2.58:19
10 Daniel Harper/Les Reger Mini 1298 2.58:29

Neil MacKinnon and Mike Stayte won the 27th Philips Tour of Mull Rally in fine style, but it was far from easy. Chris and Stephen Griffiths ran them close losing out by 56 seconds, but going one better than their previous best result, 3rd in '94.

It seems a long time ago that 296 hopefuls lined up in their shiny machines on Tobermory Main Street, but it was was only Friday night. Even so, that was 170 miles ago and what a battle was waged over every inch of those roads, and ditches, and dykes – a look at the Final Results gives the score, Island of Mull 52, Rally crews 96 i.e. 52 of them didn't make it!

From the start Callum Duffy set the pace, and if it hadn't been for the rain, he would have lit up the tar! After just 4 stages he had over a minute on MacKinnon who was learning how to drive the McKinstry Subaru.

Over the next 3 stages, MacKinnon pulled some time back and then Duffy popped in another quick one, and this in the pouring wet rain with poor visibility, on roads that resembled Venice highways, in a Mk2 Ford Escort. Unreal, eh? Over the next 2 stages MacKinnon pulled a little more back, but still Duffy went to bed that night with almost a minute in hand.

Saturday was a bit drier than the previous night's monsoon but the roads were still tricky – and Duffy failed to make it out of the first daylight stage. A blocked oil filter and the previous night's oil cooler repairs to blame. Elation to deflation in milliseconds.

Then the reports started to filter through, MacKinnon was running late, he'd been caught and passed by two cars. The Subaru's clutch had failed and he did two stages stuck in 4th gear. That meant Griffiths was in the lead from MacKinnon with James MacGillivray now nipping at the "Ol'Man's" heels in the cheeky wee Opel Corsa.

A change of clutch had MacKinnon back in the fray but he wasn't able to do much about Griffiths' lead as he was catching slower cars. And as darkness fell over the island, we knew we were in for a battle.

MacKinnon did the business over the first three stages, converting a 36 second deficit into a 16 second lead but MacGillivray blotted his copybook. The Corsa was never actually designed to fly but no-one had bothered to tell "Jock The Bull". An awkward landing after a yump put two wheels on the grass, and he was off for 7 minutes, that meant John Price could heave the mighty Metro into 3rd place with Eddie O'Donnell hanging on to his coat-tails like Tam O'Shanter's witch.

Two stages to go and MacKinnon was worried about his clutch again, Griffiths had problems with his rear suspenion, Price had a misfire, O'Donnell had a leaking oil seal, John Kirtley had already recorded more "hits" than the Beatles but was still there in 5th with Jock the Bull in 6th – and a 22 miler lurking, waiting in the dark and the rain, just up the road at Calgary.

Most of them made it over that last frightening, hell for leather mad dash to glory, but one who didn't was Kirtley, the Escort parked nosefirst into a ditch. Another who didn't was Richard Thompson losing out on 4th place. As for the rest, they made it to Tobermory more or less in one piece but Kirtley's demise had allowed another to enter the top ten, the Mini of Daniel Harper. Ya beezer!

The rollcall of misery included quite a few top seeds. Keith Robathan crashed, John Cope blew a gasket and overheated, John Cressey tossed off all his belts and Derek Carless parked his Escort carelessly – upside down at Dervaig!

Further down the field, cautious runs from both Graham Dale and Michael Russell meant that the EARS/MN runner-up position went to Dale (I think, if my maths are right) and Monty Pearson won the F2 award on the tie-break from Tim Stell.

Class winners included Daniel Harper in the 1300 class from Duggie Ingram helped by Jim Fergusson's departure after the wee Peugeot tried to mate unsuccessfully with a bridge parapet. Mark Jasper won the big GrpN class, Robert Davies (N3) in the Astra, Roy Jarvis (A6) in the Corsa, Howard Moore (N2) in the Honda, Chris paton (A5) in the Nova, Kevin Haselden (N1) in the Peugeot 106 and both Annabelle Tennant (75th) and Julie Allan (91st) finished.

And as we look back and reflect on an excellent 27th Philips Tour of Mull, and look forward to the 28th Philips (hopefully) Tour, just bear one wee thought in mind. Without the vision and determination of one man, we wouldn't be here enjoying Britain's first closed public road rally. Thanks Brian. And on behalf of 2300 Car Club, thank you one and all for supporting "the best rally in the world"! And if you see David Jordan and John Whybrow of Philips to-night then buy them a pint from me.

And finally, can I share my favourite memory of this year's Philips Tour with you? In the early hours of Sunday morning I was standing in the rain with a dejected crew who had earlier retired and had been consoling themselves in the Mac. As one of their inebriated service stalwarts leaned forward over his cigarette to light it, the ill adjusted flame lit up his fag – and set fire to the skip of his cap! Laugh? I was helpless. Odd though, he didn't think it as funny as I did. Still it kept his head warm for a wee while in the rain.

Drive safe, stay healthy, Yer auld pal, Jaggy Bunnet, (Tobermory, Sunday)

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