With 15 stages gone and 5 to go, the lead in the 2014 Tunnocks Mull Rally has changed. Calum and Iain Duffy are now in charge in their Millington MkII. Early leader James MacGillivray succumbed to the rocks in Penmore early this afternoon. There wasn't a lot of damage to the Subaru, but much time was lost getting out, and there was no way he would manage one more stage to reach service.
"I had a lucky escape too," said Calum, "where James had gone off, stones and gravel were scattered across the road and I rumbled through them. There's some bodywork damage to the front end and the front n/s suspension, but nothing too serious we can't fix for tonight."
When asked about his 'grand plan' for tyre strategy over Mishnish Lochs he just grinned: "It didn't work. I think the tyres were too hard and I couldn't get them up to temperature!"
Still holding second place is Tristan Pye, but he was being caught this afternoon by young MacCrone. "We noticed some damage to the front nearside tyre wall," said Tristan, "but we had no time to change it between stages. So we carried on and just backed off over the jumps a bit so that we didn't blow out on landing."
As for MacCrone: "We were trying hard this afternoon.The tyres were taking a beating. This car is just so much fun. Last night it was bouncing around all over the place but we've got the suspension sorted out to suit the Mull roads and it's handling a treat. That last loop of stages where we were out of one straight into another was great. The tyres and brakes are working well."
Moving up to fourth is the MkII of Doug Weir who appears to be surprised at his position in the leaderboard: "This pace is just too fast for me," he said modestly, "there were big black marks on the road where James went off.In fact, there are bg black marks all over the place."
It's always nice to get an 'outsider's view of the 'best rally in the world' and with Derek McGeehan now climbing back up the leaderboard he is really beginning to enjoy himself: "You can see where you're going now - oh chasus (to be said with feeling!), that Calgary and Mishnish, those are nice stages."
Shaun Sinclair is looking remarkably calm in sixth place and considering the infrequency of his rallying outings, a top six in this company on this event is pretty good news.
Mark Constantine currently leads the 1600 class but because of a Notional time on SS3 and a time penalty, Kevin Dunn is second in class, otherwise there would be nothing between them instead of 59 seconds.
Stewart Morrison will be going no further unless he can find a Universal Joint for his MkII's propshaft while Bruce Edwards said he "had a wonderful afternoon, the bonus being that I still had a car this morning after last night's efforts" a suggestion perhaps that a Darrian is not at its best in the dark and the wet. Jim and Charlotte McDowall are getting quicker in the Lancer, that is until they got a puncture on the Hill Road and dropped 4 minutes.
But the drive of the rally so far? Surely young Fergus Barlow must be in the running for that. He's currently lying 9th overall in his Ford Fiesta R2. His secret? His Mum's omelettes, he had one for breakfast this morning.
The sun is now setting over Ben More casting long deep purple shadows over the green and brown landscape around Salen, but of more importance to the inner man is the Salen Hotel's steak pie dinner. It's always a highlight of the annual Mull visit - just a pity there's no chance of having a pint to wash it down.
Such fortitude will be required later tonight when the rally gets under way for the third and final leg. Ahead lie four special stages and one special, special stage. There will be a 'city centre' special round Tobermory at the re-start then out to Scridain via Mishnish and Gribun. The final stage is just one of those tests that ranks alongside any challenge the WRC can throw up, and it's here on a wee island off the west coast of Scotland.
If you've never been you simply won't get it. The Good Lord had the devil in him the night he came up with this one and inspired the road builders. This is a leveller of cars and a measure of skills. It was on roads such as this that Calum the Comet earned his nickname and if you've never seen a MkII in full flight, pay a visit next year. Then there'sTristan in his Subaru with a wee Fiesta yapping at its four weel drive heels. Can John pull back a 43 second deficit? Can Tristan keep the gap?
It will be dark soon. The sky is mostly clear but there are clouds on the horizon. It's also quite nippy. Nippy enough for ice?
Leaderboard after 15 (of 20) stages:
1, C Duffy, 1h 45m 53s
2, T Pye, 1h 48m 29s
3, J MacCrone, 1h 49m 12s
4, D Weir, 1h 51m 24s
5, D McGeehan, 1h 51m 51s
6, S Sinclair, 1h 52m 13s
7, S Clark, 1h 52m 28s
8, J Cope, 1h 53m 32s
9, F Barlow, 1h 54m 02s
10, R Cook, 1h 54m 03s