Marvellous, simply marvellous. When the Dayinsure WRGB National Rally finished yesterday evening under the bunting and banner bedecked Mostyn Street in Llandudno, it was Kermit, the green Mitsubishi which led the mud streaked cavalcade into view. Bruce McCombie and Michael Coutts had won their first outright victory on a special stage rally. And what a stage on which to do it.
Next year both Bruce and Michael celebrate their 20th year of rallying, but this was their first victory. Both looked stunned, delighted and really quite emotional. I don't think it had quite sunk in as they appeared at the final control.
What was really nice to see in this sport was that second placed Luke Francis and John Roberts and third placed Roger Duckworth and Alun Cook were first out of their cars at the Finish line to congratulate the victors. Nice one boys, nice one sport.
McCombie and Coutts started the final day with a 32 second lead over Francis. Ahead lay 3 stages, Glocaenog (4.78mls), Alwen (6.47mls) and Brenig (4.93mls) a total of 33.29 miles. In other words, the Welshman only needed to find a second a mile and the leaders would be under serious threat. And remember, the Internationals had already been through them twice!
At the late Sunday morning start some observers heard what sounded like the Santa Claus overture - Jingle Bells, but different. Bruce explained: "My nerves were jingling this morning. I said last night that I would drive today as I had done yesterday. The worst bits today was the waiting. At each stage start we had to wait because of delays and accidents ahead. We were 2 up on Luke in the first one, but he got 6 back on the next."
There was a sharp intake of breath as Bruce recalled: "We had a BIG moment, we nearly hit a wall in that second one. The last stage was just a matter of getting through it, and we took 9 out of Luke. I texted the wife at the finish - 'We've done it'. We're just so chuffed."
Equally impressive were Iain Wilson and Keith Riddick's 4th place finish. Holding fifth place last year when they went off, they were back and finished the job this year: "That last stage was a nightmare. It was so slippery, but overall it was really good."
Wee brother Scott McCombie and Mark Fisher completed the family domination of the National event with a superb fifth overall on their first visit to Wales: "Don't ask me how we did that. I can't believe we took time out of Wug on the last day to move up to fifth. I suppose I just got into it more as the rally progressed." Was that jubilation etched on their faces? Relief, more like!
The fourth Scot in the top ten was Fraser MacNicol with his Irish co-driver Aaron Johnston, and Fraser's smile lit up the whole street. Disbelief was etched on his face too: "Last night the plan was to hold on to 8th, but we got 7th. We just pushed on today and managed to take a bit of time out of Paul Walker and Rudi Lancaster." Like Bruce there was a sharp intake of breath when he recalled: "We nearly threw it all away in that last one. We had two wheels fully in a ditch and thought that was it. All over. But she pulled out. I still don't know."
Tenth overall was just a stretch too far for Robert Thomson and Steven Kerschat. Nevertheless they moved up a place on the final day to finish 12th. And with a smile that would light up Blackpool seafront, Robert said: "We just lost out on 11th by 6 seconds, but we're delighted. We lost the intercom on the final stage but just so glad to be here."
Jim McRae and Pauline Gullick were 16th in the Firenza: "It was getting rough in places so I didn't stick my neck out. We were lucky though. We got a puncture in that last one but it was only a mile from the end."
Simon Hay and Calum Jaffray made it 7 Scots in the top 20 when they finished 20th on their first visit to Wales, but there was some cracked fibreglass around the bumper: "We hit a chicane bale head-on, but it wasn't our fault. An earlier car must have hit it and left it in the middle of the road," but as he pointed to the substantial new underpan, remarked: "it did its job."
Tom Coughtrie and Calvin Coolidge fished 29th overall in their Escort ahead of Ian and Kathryn Forgan in the Subaru in 31st place. They had a busy weekend, and that carried through to the Sunday run too: "W did the clutch on Friday, the diff yesterday, and cracked the windscreen and got a puncture today."
And after their bad starts to the event, the 'come back kids' did well too. Kevin Robertson and Murray Strachan finished 42nd, Geoff Goudie and Keegan Rees were 45th and Lee Hastings and Chris Robertson set some cracking times over the final stages but after their accident on the first day, had to settle for 50th."
But there was one sad tale. Carl and Rob Tuer put the MG off in the final stage. They had been coming under pressure from a closing Gee Atherton in a Fiesta R2 which had the legs of the MG. A valiant fight but a bitterly disappointing conclusion.
On the biggest stage of their careers, the boys and girls dun good, eh?