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 is 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.