Scrutineering in a distillery? It can only mean one thing, the 2105 Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally got underway while the mist was still rolling off Tobermory Bay. One of the first cars through was 8 times winner Calum Duffy’s Subaru Impreza now resplendent in a new colour scheme in deference to his sponsors. He’s now had two runs out in it: “The Mach1 Stages was all about seat time,” said Calum, “but Ulster was a proper rally. We finished 15th overall and first in class which was a result – we were the only ones in that class! The car is going well but you have to be aggressive with it, sometimes it’s driving me instead of me driving it. Tonight and tomorrow afternoon I’ll still be learning so we’ll see where we are tomorrow night. John (MacCrone) is in the same boat. That means if John Cope gets out the starting blocks well tonight it should make him well placed while we’re still learning.”
Then Iain chipped in: “At the end of Mishnish it’ll either be the best car in the world, or it’ll be for sale!”
Speaking of Cope, he’s looking quite calm and relaxed this morning: “I did Anglesey in July with my daughter Aimee and it wouldn’t oversteer so we played with diffs and suspension settings and got it better but it still wasn’t right. In fact it hasn’t been right for the past three years and we’ve now found out why. I found an ex-Prodrive engineer who told us that 16 of the ports in a 100 port ECU were not connected and we didn’t know what they were supposed to be connected to. Anyway, he sorted it all out, and the car works!”
MacCrone’s car is the TEG Sport ‘spare’ with Aaron telling me it’s B13 spec (same as Jock Armstrong) and said: “She’s a proper weapon!” In other words, if John can get to grips with it quickly he’ll be up there with the leaders.
Second last year, Tristan Pye could be another possible top podium finisher, but said: “There was a bit of luck to it last year. I was on the right tyres at the right times.” Methinks he doth play his chances down, eh?
Sadly, James MacGillivray won’t be starting. The Subaru developed a piston problem this morning, and he thinks it can’t be fixed in time. Daniel Harper has new driveshafts in the MINI after his breakage on the Isle of Man. He was lying fourth at the time and recalls distinctly what he said when he felt it go: “Effen twat!” Tony Bardy’s Focus WRC looks the business, but like many of the top seeds lacks seat time: “It’s been in the garage for 2 months since I bought it from Andy Fenwick,” said Tony, “I drove it out of the garage at home and drove it to scrutineering this morning. If I get through tonight, that will be an achievement.”
Derek McGeehan reckons Mull is a 3 year job and this is only his second visit. But he was lying fourth last year when electrical gremlins struck the MINI WRC and according to Arthur Kierans (co-driver) they’ve done 500 miles on the island this week. So he’s putting the work in. Gary and Gordon Adam are another pairing putting the miles in: “First time on the island you have to,” said Gordon, “we’ve fallen out quite a few times over the Notes! It looks different in the dark too. You see posts and markers at night that you don’t see in daylight.”
Ian Grindrod is dreading his second outing in the 3.7 litre V8 Firenza alongside Jim McRae: “There’s not a lot of straights in this thing, and event when you get a straight, it’s much shorter than in anything else!” This is Jim’s third visit: “I came here in 1974 for the first time when it was a round of the Scottish Championship and finished 8th. I remember all these English ‘selective’ specialists were here and David Brown (his original co-driver) thought we would have a go at reading Pace Notes. We did try it and after a few miles I turned to David and said – forget it, I’ll just drive it!” Chnaged days eh?
Alistair Inglis’ Lotus looks terrific in white after it’s rebuild following its roll on the Pendragon and Alan Gardiner’s Mk1 is back to its pristine best after a shunt in Ireland – which wasn’t his fault, as the crew who had gone off on the far side of a blind crest hadn’t put their triangle out! A timely warning for all rally crews, especially tonight. Barry Renwick’s new Proton Millington looks fabulous. It’s the ex-Wilks car used on Rally Scotland, completely rebuilt and ready for action. Equally pleased with his new Millington is Steven Ronaldson’s Metro which now has a Millington 2.5 and MakTrak 6 spd seq ‘box. “I can’t stop smiling,” said Steven, “I had a test with it at Cadwell Park and it just feels so good especially with its new electric power steering.”
Ross ‘Friday Night Issues’ Marshall is just hoping for a clean run as “I always hit problems on the first night here” while his Dad John was saying “I only need to finish this to clinch the Scottish Tarmack Championship” – so no pressure then, eh?
And can I just leave the last word (for now) to Scroot Jim McDowall. When Jonathan Mounsey brought his Mitsubishi into the distillery he remarked on the quality of the opposition: “It’ll be hard to get on the Mull calendar this year” with the droll Jim retorting “You’ll mibbe need to sponsor a stage.” I couldn’t have put it better meself.