The Tunnock’s Mull Rally, 8/9/10 October 2010
Comet Sighted Over Mull
This was an unbelievable event. One for the history jotters and record books. The 41st Tunnock’s Mull Rally will enter folklore for years to come. No, I’m not talking about the titanic struggle between eventual winners Calum and Iain Duffy and Paul MacKinnon and Ewen MacGillivray, I’m talking about the fact that the sun shone from the Thursday pre-event day, right through Friday Scrutineering, blessed the rally itself, and even sent us homewards with a warm and cheery glow. It was so unexpected, it was frightening. All that, and one of life’s epic motor rallying spectacles played out before our very eyes, you couldn’t wish for better.
Unfortunately, a quick look at the Final Results does nothing to indicate the high drama and even higher speeds that characterised this year’s rally. Indeed, looking at the gaps, the top eight finishers all appear to have been pretty secure in their placings at the finish. Secure? Just about as secure as a bleary-eyed, hungover service crew with a welding torch and a case of the jitters trying to fix fuel lines.
That the rally run at all is a tribute to a small band of determined and dedicated individuals backed up by a large band of helpers and volunteers, and the fact that it ran so well is evidence that the new team is fit for the job. And just in case anyone tries to slag off 2300 Club. Don’t. If anyone does, then allow me to be the first to kick their a**e. Let’s not forget that they started it, they stuck with it and through them it prospered. And it was only because of them that something rather special took place just off the west coast of Scotland each year and had done for the previous 40 years.
That is not to diminish Mull Car Club’s efforts, and the fact that they were on the case when two serious incidents befell the rally shows that the organising team has strength in depth, as it now marshals its resources and its troops to move on to the next level.
As it was, 115 cars and crews gathered in Tobermory to contest this 41st event backed once again by the patron saint of pies, biscuits and snacks – Saint Tunnock’s of Biscuitry.
The rally started with three crews beating the Bogey on the first stage, the 14.15 mile dash up Glen Aros and over the Hill Road. Now to put things in context, the record for this test was set in 1999 by Chris Griffiths who recorded a time of 12m 01 seconds for the run against a Bogey of 11m 20s.
This year the Bogey was set at 11m 19s – and three crews beat it. In fact, they demolished it. Now don’t let on I told you, but MacKinnon the Younger beat it by 18 seconds, Calum the Comet by 10 seconds and Dougi Hall was on a mission too, one second under. On that basis, no advantage was gained, and so on to the next test, the 8.38 mile test down Gribun Rocks.
Paul MacKinnon set a new record last year for this stage of 6m 56s, and he was the only driver under the 7 minute barrier this year, with a time of 6m 53s, yet another new record. Calum Duffy was only 7 seconds down and Dougi Hall a further 4 seconds back, but at least there was daylight (or should that be spotlight?) between them.
The third test on Friday night was the 2008 version of Loch Scridain. At 4.46 miles (Bogey time, 3m 34s), Neil MacKinnon held the record with 3m 36s. This year, Paul and Calum set identical 3m 40s times with Dougi Hall only 4 seconds off the mark. That meant that at first service, the gaps were 7 seconds between cars 1 and 2, and 8 seconds between cars 2 and 3 – after a total of 27 miles. Crazy, eh?
Then came Mishnish Lochs, the 6.55 mile version (as opposed to the 6.32 mile length) where Neil MacKinnon’s 6m 45s record from 2006 still stood. Not any more!
It was MacKinnon the Younger again with 6m 25s from Calum on 6m 29s. “I was lucky to come out of that one in one piece,” said Calum at the end of it, “the new tarmac sections were very, very slippy and I had two full-max slides and just somehow stayed on the road.” Always quick and always spectacular on this test, it was John Cope who was third quickest (6m 35s) just ahead of James MacGillivray and Dougi Hall.
MacKinnon was quicker again on Calgary and Tuath to close the first Leg with a 15 second lead over Duffy, but he was having his own troubles. “The ‘dog ‘box broke on the third stage,” said Paul, “and we only had a standard ‘box as spare, so I am having to be extra cautious and precise every time I select gear.” Calum was in trouble too with a misfire, and in response to the question ‘what?’ came up with an extremely detailed and technical response: “There was shit in the fuel filter!” So it doesn’t take a genius to work out how that was fixed.
Dougi Hall was still in with a shout, keeping tabs on the top two, but had to be aware that James MacGillivray was playing his own ‘waiting game’ in fourth place ahead of John Cope. Daniel Harper had been holding sixth place in the MINI till the fourth stage when the car disappeared some 30 feet into the undergrowth: “First I ran out of road, then I ran out of talent!” said Daniel in the MacDonald Arms afterwards.
Hugh Hunter was another early casualty when he broke a wheel and punctured two tyres in the Focus WRC01 clattering over a rock in Calgary, while young John MacCrone was left heartbroken when he retired his Fiesta on only the second stage. The car had stopped on the first stage with ECU failure and after repairs, he started the second stage only for the clutch to fail this time. He wasn’t the only one heartbroken, big things were expected of him that night. If he thought he was unlucky, think how Eddie O’Donnell must have felt. After a quick and encouraging top ten start, the alternator failed leaving him with no lights and no electrics stranded in the darkness in the middle of nowhere – a place he’s often found himself in the past.
Bruce Edwards was another early casualty when the Darrian cracked its sump and John Cressey was spotted perspiring heavily, but it was only the fear of spinning the MINI – because the starter motor had broken and he didn’t fancy trying to push start it if he did! Tristan Pye thought he was out of it when a loud ‘banging’ noise was heard coming from the rear in the second stage, but it was only an exhaust hanger which had broken and the pipe was clattering away under the Subaru.
Alan Gardiner was lucky too. Prior to the rally start the team discovered that a shock absorber had burst and replaced it. Alan shuddered to think what might have happened had it gone on the stage! John Morrison had a torrid time over the opening stages too. The Mitsubishi had developed a bad misfire and it looked as though it was overfuelling itself, but it defied all attempts to diagnose the problem. Reay MacKay was keeping an eye on the Subaru’s gearbox which was leaking oil (probably over-filled he thought) and Jimmy Christie got a puncture in the first test followed by the lightpod plug coming loose in Mishnish at which point everything suddenly went dark, very dark.
Pat Johnson went one better with two punctures in the first two tests and Tim Stell was another to incur a puncture when he clipped a rock in SS2. Steven Ronaldson broke a driveshaft in SS4 (and another one later but with no more spares had to retire) and Mark Borthwick in the Lancer was experiencing a misfire at full boost following a hard landing after the big jump in Calgary, while Alan Kirby was struggling with a two-wheel drive Impreza due to gearbox problems. Stephen Lockhart got a big scare in Gribun when the Lancer landed awkwardly after a jump which resulted in a tank-slapper, but he got away with it and then he had another at Calgary steps. You’d think he’d learn, eh? Another needing to learn quick is Lewis Gallagher. After a stunning time on the first stage, the number 54 seed parked it on the beach on the second!
And I liked Wayne Sisson’s quote at the end of the first Leg: “I’m not brave enough, but happy enough. It’s too quick and too dry!” Not helping matters much was a loose spotlight which was waggling around and very disconcerting to say the least.
The sun came up with a vengeance for the Saturday afternoon second Leg. As the temperatures rose and the road surfaces got hotter, tyres turned to the consistency of butter in a baker’s oven. Everyone had tyre trouble, even the wummin pushing her wean in a balloon tyred buggy!
It was into this cauldron that the survivors headed with MacKinnon, Duffy and MacGillivray all cleaning the first test before Duffy got his nose in front for the first time in Calgary. “I think we hit the same rock as Calum did,” said Paul, “but he got away with it and we got a puncture. That’s rallying.”
MacKinnon bounced back with an 8 second recovery over Mishnish, but it was Duffy by a second on Gribun and MacKinnon by a second on Scridain which left the Saturday afternoon leaderboard showing Duffy ahead by 8 seconds. MacGillivray had moved up to third after a scintillating run over Mishnish: “That was the fastest I’ve ever driven over the Lochs,” he said, while Dougi Hall had dropped back with punctures on the 7th test and 9th tests but still well in the hunt, although he did happen to mention that: “I’ve brought my really hard tyres with me every year – except this year.”
John Cope was fifth and Willie Bonniwell sixth – and about to move up a place. Just before the Saturday night final Leg start, Cope’s Subaru developed an engine fault and with no time to fix it, the pub beckoned. John Swinscoe was in the top ten and he too was experiencing trouble, but with his brakes: “I’ve got new discs and pads coming over on the 4 o’clock boat hopefully in time for tonight,” he said. John Cressey with his son Martin on the Notes was in the top ten by this time and was chuckling hard at the finish of Scridain: “I’ve just had a huge moment in there,” he said, so what was funny I asked, and he replied a bit more sheepishly: “I was showboating to my boy!” Aye, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
Tony Bardy was the next high profile non-finisher when the Nissan broke an input shaft on the gearbox just as the car coasted over the Finish line of the final stage, but he was a long way from Service.
As the sun dipped over the horizon, the wind sprang up, but mercifully it stayed dry, although the competition was still white hot. It was Duffy by 2 seconds and 1, then MacKinnon by 1 over the next three stages, before the matter was all but settled on the 22 mile Loch Tuath/Calgary monster. MacKinnon’s Subaru slid on to the grass on the first corner and buckled a wheel on a rock. “The vibration was so bad, it nearly shook the windscreen out,” said Paul. Even so, he didn’t relax the pressure with Duffy only too well aware that his slightest mistake would drop him into his rival’s clutches.
The long stage was also MacGillivray’s undoing and he punctured too putting him at the mercy of the shadowing Hall who took full advantage and kept the Lancer in front all the way to the finish.
Willie Bonniwell was pleased with fifth ahead of Tristan Pye who was pretty much on top ten pace throughout despite so few events this season. Wayne Sisson was 7th ahead of John Swinscoe just relieved to see the finish: “That’s given me my confidence back after the shunts we’ve had,” said John.
Rounding off the top ten were Steve Cressey and Billy Bird, but John Cresssey might well have been in there too, but for a puncture on the 22 miler. He had no choice but to stop and fit the spare – and then found the jack had seized solid. Once it had been freed off and the car jacked up, it jammed again, and if anyone saw some puffs of bright blue air in the darkness on the west coast they’ll now know the reason why. That guy can cuss for ten minutes without repeating himself.
At the finish, Calum paid tribute to Paul: “That’s the hardest we’ve ever been pushed. The commitment levels were phenomenal and despite the dry weather, conditions were changeable, especially the new tarmac which offered different levels of grip depending on whether it was night or daylight.” It was an opinion shared by co-driving brother Iain: “It’s the fastest he’s ever driven. We say it every year ‘the pace can’t get any hotter’ and yet it does, and it did again this year.”
And to top it all off, Tunnock’s had delivered a truck load of pies for the finishers, so I had one too. Then when the second tray of pies came out, and purely in the interests of science, quality control and maintaining standards, I had one from the second tray. By goad it wiz hoat, awfy hoat. So there I was, surrounded by all these rally stars under a star studded sky looking out over the harbour lights of Tobermory Bay, munching a Tunnock’s pie. Magic, pure magic. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
Mark and Andrew Constantine were convincing winners of the 1400cc Class A, their Vauxhall Corsa simply requiring a bit of extra ride height at first service. Mark Tarbutt was less than a minute and a half behind, but engine problems during the daylight section cost him dear. Duggie Ingram was third in the Mini despite having to constantly top it up with oil: “It’s not a problem,” he explained, “it’s just a BL thing.” while the expected challenge from John Paterson faded as did the engine in his Nova.
Ian Chadwick was the 1600cc Class B winner and delighted with that as he was a previous 1400 class winner and had now added the 1600 class win to his trophy list. In second place, Euan MacKay was happier with the fact that he had closed the gap on his Dad Allan MacKay (driving a Mitsubishi Lancer) to 4 seconds rather than taking second place in the 1600 class. Oddly enough, third placed Alex Brown was just as delighted with his Dad-catching exploits finishing 8 seconds behind Donald (driving a Subaru Impreza) in his Citroen Saxo. And this despite a broken shock absorber mounting after a clattery landing over a jump in Gribun. Mike Storrar might have given these three more of a run for their money had his Toyota engined Anglia not blown a head gasket and the same goes for Richard Sykes. His wee Citroen leapt off the road and into a ditch on Friday night and it would have stayed there had it not been for the spectators lifting the whole kit and caboodle back on to the road, while Gareth White’s C2 also ended up in the heather, but without enough spectators to help him out. Malcolm Davey’s Mk1 Escort retired with a dead alternator and Jim McDowall had the Avenger’s head gasket fail on Friday night and then broke the gearbox on Saturday.
Billy Bird was the 2 litre Class C winner in his immaculate looking Vauxhall Chevette from Grum Willcock in his Opel Manta which had survived a few sessions without brakes on its way to the rally finish. More worrying was an occasion in the darkness when a wire broke on the alternator plunging him into darkness. But what I loved best was his comment after he looked at the times on Saturday: “I’ve driven shitloads faster than I’ve ever driven before, and I’m still dropping back places this afternoon!”
Chris Haigh had to overcome a few brakeless moments too on his way to third although early class leader Iain Ogg MacKenzie retired following a road accident when he swerved trying to avoid a large deer. Derek Carless had a puncture in the Peugeot on SS1, Stewart Morrison broke the Escort’s panhard rod on the daylight stages and had to drive the Lochs with the rear axle floating about doing its own thing and Neil Morgan had problems with his Escort’s ECU cutting out at Stage Starts and then broke down on the way to Craignure service. Matthew Fisher was having clutch trouble in the Escort while Lorn McFadyen did half the first stage jammed in 4th gear then cracked the manifold, but after changing the ‘box and doing a bit of welding was back on the road for Saturday.
Tony MacKintosh from Colby on the Isle of Man retired after the very first stage when the Corsa developed a bad fuel problem filling the car with fumes and making the crew ill. They couldn’t fix it, and that was the end of that.
Stuart Egglestone was another front running retirement when he first had an oil pressure problem, followed by fuel, pump failure, then an ignition fault followed by clutch failure – busy times, eh?
Paul Daniel had a wee off in Gribun rumbling over the rocks, but it bent the Escort’s panhard rod at the rear. John Woodward had to stop and change the Escort’s ECU in SS1 and then the alternator packed up. Young Steven O’Donnell’s rally ended when the Escort head-butted a boulder, Andrew Moverley’s Escort had diff problems, David Riley’s Astra broke its clutch release lever and Fergus Gray’s wee Peugeot left its exhaust somewhere in Gribun while Craig Rutherford retired his Honda Civic with engine problems.
1 Calum Duffy/Iain Duffy (Ford Escort MkII) 2h 06m 13s
2 Paul MacKinnon/Ewan MacGillivray (Subaru Impreza) 2h 07m 43s
3 Dougi Hall/Alistair Wylie (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h 10m 32s
4 James MacGillivray/Ian Fraser (Ford Escort MkII) 2h 11m 56s
5 Willie Bonniwell/Allan MacDougall (Subaru Impreza) 2h 12m 12s
6 Tristan Pye/Andrew Falconer (Subaru Impreza) 2h 16m 12s
7 Wayne Sisson/Daniel Stone (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h 17m 46s
8 John Swinscoe/Paula Swinscoe (Mitsubishi Lancer) 2h 19m 11s
9 Steve Cressey/Sam Collis (Subaru Impreza) 2h 20m 10s
10 Billy Bird/Plug Pulleyn (Vauxhall Chevette) 2h 20m20s
1 Mark Constantine/Andrew Constantine (Vauxhall Corsa) 2h 27m 11s
2 Matt Tarbutt/Joff Haigh (Vauxhall Nova) 2h 28m 35s
3 Douglas Ingram/Olum MacCrone (Austin Mini) 2h 36m34s
1 Ian Chadwick/John Bould (Peugeot 106) 2h 27m 00s
2 Euan MacKay/Michelle Falconer (Peugeot 106) 2h 30m 48s
3 Alec Brown/Stewart Wilshire (Citroen Saxo) 2h 33m 48s
1 Billy Bird/Plug Pulleyn (Vauxhall Chevette) 2h 20m 20s
2 Grum Willcock/Donna Harper (Opel Manta) 2h 21m 55s
3 Chris Haigh/Sally Peacock (Ford Escort MkI) 2h 22m 10s
Stage 2 was stopped when the Ford Escort of John Cowe and Colin Richardson smacked ‘Horne’s Rock’ and the duo were taken to the local hospital in Salen. Colin was later airlifted to Paisley and he’s still there, as this is being written, but out of danger.
The other accident occurred prior to the start of the final Leg on Saturday night when Iain Ogg MacKenzie and his Dad, Angus, were driving up the Craignure road towards Salen. Iain swerved to avoid a large deer on the road and the Fiesta struck a tree. Again both were taken to Salen Hospital where once again an airlift was called in to transfer Angus to Paisley. By Sunday afternoon, Angus was all ready for going home but the authorities reckoned he should stay in another night!