As ever, the Beatson’s Mull Rally started with a bang and will build up to a climax, or in this case, quite a few bangs. Although Tobermory was bathed in sunshine, or as near as damn it for the time of year, up the hill on the Mishnish Lochs opening stage it was teeming down in places. And yet the second stage over the Hill Road was virtually bone dry. The dilemma? What tyres to choose. With no chance to change between them, it was down to calculated risk or pot luck.
First to suffer was one of the pre-event favourites, Paul MacKinnon in the Subaru: “I got caught out under braking. Call it ‘ring rusty’ if you like, but I just locked up on some shiny tar and slid straight off. On the positive side, I picked a good place to go off and just got stuck on some grass so there was no damage, but it cost me a Maximum. Another day I would have got away with it. Just not today.”
That’s not say he’s down and out, we have seen some tremendous fightbacks on this event over past years but he’ll be relying on the other top seeds to strike trouble.
Rally leader after two stages, John MacCrone (Fiesta R5) said: “That first one was horribly slippy. I knew it was wet but with a dry stage 2 had to compromise on tyres. The brakes took a beating on the second stage and the pedal went soft half way through.”
In second place, Calum Duffy in the Skoda was almost content: “That was quite nasty over the Lochs. It pished down at the start and I couldn’t get any heat into the tyres at all, then when we were sitting waiting to go into SS2 the pressures dropped to 17psi and nearly rolled off the rim on their own. It took a while to get the heat back into them even though it was dry. But I’m not unhappy, we still need to work on the suspension though, it’s not quite right for here.”
In third place was the German sausage tin of Daniel Harper: “We nearly backed it into the Glengorm crossroads when the tail stepped out, but we hit the bridge at the Fish Farm and broke a wheel, although the tyre stayed inflated somehow. It was shaking like a sh*tt*ng dog,” said the MINI pilot, “and then we went off on the Hill Road. It was like an off-road rally section there was muck and grass everywhere.”
Jonathan Mounsey was a relieved man as his Mitsubishi had broken its transfer ‘box at the Shakedown earlier this morning and he had no spare. Tommy Graham gave him his spare and with the help of his boys and Wayne Sisson from Arnside Motorsport, Mounsey was back on the road tonight. Tristan Pye didn’t enjoy the first stage in his new Subaru having picked the wrong tyres while John Cope thought the first stage was weird: “There was grip on one corner, then none on the next.” Derek McGeehan in the MINI WRC got caught out on slicks on the first stage, but added: “That’s sorted out the nerves, so we’re OK now,” and he enjoyed SS2. James MacGillivray in the Subaru said that the first 3 miles of the first stage were really slippery then it sort of dried and then got slippy towards the end “where Paul went off.” Lewis Gallagher in the Subaru echoed everyone else’s thoughts on the slipperiness while Tony Bardy in the Focus commented that 4WD is no guarantee of more grip: “Four tyres can lose grip just as easily as two tyres!” Of more concern to him was the fact that the gearbox is missing gears on the downshift: “I don’t want to be finding neutral when I need a gear,” he added.
David Bogie stated that those are the most slippery conditions he’s ever encountered in his Mk2 Escort so far: “We went for hard tyres on the rear and just couldn’t get heat into them.” Billy Bird in the Chevette had a more couthy explanation: “At my age you don’t have ‘near misses’ you either crash or get through!” Alan Gardiner was more upbeat in the Mk1: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might have been. We’ve got new Reiger suspension on the front and it seems to be better, we put Reiger on the rear last year, but that’s it all round now.” As for John Cressey in the MINI, he was just full of nonsense. With his son Martin co-driving he explained: “My little boy has loads of time to sight-see but he’s getting cheeky, he complimented me on my ability to drive slowly.”
Doug Weir was upbeat: “This is Escort weather, sideways everywhere.” Shaun Sinclair pulled into the Regroup with the Lancer showing signs of contact on the front o/s side corner: “Cold tyres, shiny tar – and driving above my ability! We went off at the Bakery corner in the first stage and there’s a wee bit of vibration but we think it’s just mud in the wheels.” Like Cressey, Curly ‘Toot Toot’ Haigh wasn’t taking life too seriously in the Mk1, complaining about his co-driver Sally Peacock: “She’s going faster than me, I can’t keep up with her Notes.” Ian Chadwick was laughing at his own attempts so far: “I did the Cork Rally in a left hand drive Skoda Fabia and now I’m trying to re-learn how to drive a right hand drive Honda.”
Another showing signs of things going bump in the night was the Mitsubishi of Donnie MacDonald: “Stupid error. 4th corner of the first stage, slid off on cold tyres into a ditch. It’s only thanks to the valiant efforts of the spectators that we’re still going and only lost about 4 minutes.” Oddly enough, it was the driver’s side that took the hit but no real damage. Fergus Barlow was having his first run out in the Fiesta since last year and was taking things cautiously: “We went off on the Hill Road last year!” Grum Wilcock has a misfire in the Manta and Ross Hunter was pleased at the end of SS2: “We haven’t made it as far as this for three years,” as the Peugeot booked into Regroup.
Three more stages tonight will bring things to a close on Leg 1, two shortish 5-ish milers and the monster 20 mile thrash through Glen Aros and round Calgary Bay. If you could bottle that, it would put Red Bull out of business!
Leaderboard after 2 (of 18) Stages:
1, J MacCrone, 19m 56s
2, C Duffy, 20m 15s
3, D Harper, 20m 54s
4, L Gallgher, 21m 06s
5, D McGeehan, 21m 25s
6, J Mounsey, 21m 26s
7, T Pye, 21m 31s
8, J MacGillivray, 21m 45s
9, J Cope, 21m 47s
10, S Thompson, 22m 10s
(Full results on: www.FlyingFinish.co.uk)