What a rally and what a result. Calum Duffy scored his 8th Mull victory tonight. With brother Iain on the Notes, the duo flew their Ford Escort Millington Diamond MkII over 154 miles of dark, tortuous, soaking, slippery tarmac, to score an emphatic win on this 45th Tunnocks Mull Rally. Yes, there were some dry patches and some blue sky along the way, but there are certain factions within rallying who think 2WD cars should remember their place in life and allow the total traction brigade to grab the glory. Some hope.
If Duffy's victory was emphatic, Tristan Pye's runner-up position was exemplary while John Cope's third place was richly deserved. Tristan fought hard every inch of the way to hang on to a podium position, but he had to keep one eye on his rear vision mirror. John MacCrone was closing the gap, but he was running out of miles to do it.
Then came that final waterised roller coaster of a final stage. It was streaming wet at the start, dried a bit in the middle and was wet again at the finish as the heavens opened one more time. In other words, it didn't freeze tonight, it just rained.
MacCrone started the stage 39 seconds behind Pye, but there were 23 miles of this hellish highway to vanquish. Surely not? And so it was. In that series of fast swoops and diabolical dips approaching Calgary Bay, the Ford Fiesta snapped a driveshaft. MacCrone tried to drive on but he was getting caught by faster machinery and other men on a mission. So he opted for a safer course and pulled over to let the others speed by.
Pye's runner-up spot was secure, or was it: "It was really slippy in there. I had a few near crashes, I knew John was catching me, but I got away with it, and then I saw him parked up."
At the finish Duffy wasn't sure he had done enough despite his 3 minute buffer: "I had a rubbish time in there," he said, "the tyres went off going round Calgary Bay. We went for full wets and they were shot by the time we got to the dry section." Rubbish time indeed, he was still fastest.
Cope was on a mission too: "I enjoyed that," he beamed, "I caught and passed Shaun Sinclair, then I saw John parked up, so I knew I had a sniff of a result."
Sadly, Doug Weir went out, off into a ditch at Junction 4 and earlier we lost Derek McGeehan when the MINI suffered electrical problems, so there was a real shake-up in the final top ten. Richard Cook nabbed fourth and Billy Bird put his Chevette into a stunning fifth place just ahead of Sinclair rounding off the top six.
Man (boy?) of the rally? Surely that was Fergus Barlow. TheTobermory youngster has only done one Mull and two single venue events, There were those amongst his circle of 'friends' who reckoned he wouldn't get out of Stage 1. He finished 7th overall winning the 1600 class in his Fiesta R2 with class rival Ian Chadwick (9th o/a) having to settle for second in class after surviving 4 spins in the same non-accident in the final stage. Phew. Mark Constantine won the 1400 class with Kevin Dunn unable to recover from that Notional Time on SS3 to do anything about it.
And what about Curly Haigh in the MkI, he finished in 8th place tootling his way around with his air horn accompaniment, while rounding off the top ten was a smiling John Rintoul in the Hyundai, but he had one complaint: "Where's the pies? I starved myself all day expecting a Tunnocks pie at the finish, and there's none!"
So the biggest question of the night, in the absence of the traditional warm and succulent savouries, was - who ate all the pies?
Leaderboard after 20 (of 20) stages:
1, C Duffy, 2h 28m 32s
2, T Pye, 2h 31m 27s
3, J Cope, 2h 38m 37s
4, R Cook, 2h 39m 22s
5, B Bird, 2h39m 50s
6, S Sinclair, 2h 39m 56s
7, F Barlow, 2h 40m 39s
8, C Haigh, 2h 40m 48s
9, I Chadwick, 2h 42m 12s
10, J Rintoul, 2h 42m 28s