Mull did it again. The clouds cleared and the stars came out to greet the rather more earthly stars and their cars on the final Leg and final night of the 2012 Tunnock’s Mull Rally.
There were to be no last minute surprises in the final results (they remain provisional until tomorrow) with Calum and Iain Duffy retaining their lead throughout the final four stages to clinch their seventh victory on this most unique rallying challenge. Over the closing stages, both Calum and Iain’s hearts were in their mouths. Apart from the alternator bracket failure on the first night, the John Reid engined Ford Escort MkII hadn’t missed a beat, so every little noise and rattle assumed greater worrying proportions the closer they got to the finish.
Keeping it in the family, Calum’s second cousin, John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon scored a stunning and memorable runnerup position in their 1600cc Ford Fiesta R2. It had been a calm and mature drive from the youngster, driving the car as hard and as fast as he dared given the car’s limitations and the demands placed on the crew by such a long and tough event.
But there was heartbreak too. Holding second place for so long, Tony Bardy crashed out in the Loch Kinloch penultimate test with the Nissan unable to go any further.
That was John Cope’s benefit. Coming back from his troubles on Friday night, the Subaru didn’t miss a beat with Cope claiming the final podium place.
Tristan Pye was fourth in the Subaru from Eddie O’Donnell in the Escort with Jonathan Mounsey elated to score sixth place: “I did both Gribun and Scridain with a broken driveshaft. Flat in fifth with the shift light on and a driveshaft flapping away underneath, that was scary.”
John Cressey was just as delighted with seventh in the MINI from Lewis Gallagher who dropped out of the top six when he slid off the road on Loch Tuath. Fortunately the Subaru was able to get back on the road undamaged. Alistair Inglis was delighted with ninth overall, and rightly so, on his first attempt at the Mull Rally: "It was those head gasket problems on the first night that kept me in the rally,” he said, “that focused the mind, then I got a bit quicker this afternoon and tonight was just fabulous.”
However, Inglis was worried: “Harper in the MINI was taking two seconds a mile off me, I didn’t know if I’d make the top ten at all.”
As it turned out, Daniel Harper rounded off the top ten coming to within 4 seconds of Inglis at the final flag in one of the fightbacks of the rally. Somebody should take Daniel aside and give him a good talking to – MINIs shouldn’t go that fast!
Those were the lucky ones. Stephen Lockhart retired two stages from the end with driveshaft failure and Dave Miller blew a turbo. Running second in Class B behind MacCrone there was cruel luck for Ian Chadwick when the Honda converted a perfectly functional engine to an assorted collection of parts, and Stuart Walker had a ‘biggie’ on Gribun where a lamp post prevented the Lancer falling on to the beach. Billy Bird retired the Chevette with a burst halfshaft and Peter Taylor failed to make the start of the Final Leg. He had been worried about noises from the diff as he clocked in at the end of Leg 2, but it turned out to be the gearbox that stopped play.
But the night and the rally belonged to the Duffy brothers. At the finish, a clearly 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. The MacKinnons have done it to me for years, so it’s my turn to do it to John.” Sibling rivalry, eh?
Provisional leaderboard after 17 of 17 stages:
1, Duffy, 2h 25m 34s
2, MacCrone, 2h 27m 41s
3, Cope, 2h 31m 01s
4, Pye, 2h 31m 50s
5, O’Donnell, 2h 34m 20s
6, Mounsey, 2h 35m 10s
7, J Cressey, 2h 35m 27s
8, Gallagher, 2h 35m 51s
9, Inglis, 2h 37m 13s
10, Harper, 2h 37m 17s