False hope ... The clouds gave way to sunshine this morning, then it rained. If you want to know about the term 'sunshine showers' come to Mull. Some of the showers were quite fierce, but they were short. That meant different crews encountered them at different places depending on their running order. In other words, conditions were just as unpredictable as they were last night. The only difference this time, it was daylight. That also meant more committment and higher speeds and the crowds flocked into the stages to watch these modern day gladiators at work and play. Even along the roadsides, families with children were ourside their houses, hamlets and even where no habitation was within sight cheering on their favourites as they passed and checking them off on the Programme entry lists. The kids just stood there no matter how heavy the rain! Oblivious to everything but the sight and sound of rally cars. Magic, pure magic.
Paul MacKinnon and Paul Beaton (2) still lead this 50th Mull Rally sponsored by Beatson's Building Supplies, but Daniel Harper and Chris Campbel (4) have dropped to just over a minute behind, but that's still only a hop, skip and a fright away from the lead. "I've just been off," said Daniel, "I fle a bit further than I thought it would fly, over 'John Shirley's leap'. Unlike Shirley I landed in the ditch rather than the dry stane wall, and just managed to power my way out. It knocked the tracking out and filled the wheels with mud so it was handful to get it here."
MacKinnon is not without his concerns either: "Harper is an annoying old b*st*rd, he keeps winding me up," said Paul, "it's hard going, Mishnish Lochs was like a skating rink in places, conditions are really changeable., but we seem to have a problem, probably due to the puncture I had on Stage 3. It keeps stepping out on right handers, so I think something is bent."
David Bogie (5) has moved up to 3rd and leading the 2WD charge but even his pace is not without risk: "I had a BIG tank slapper on the Hill Road," laughed David, "I was on the power on the shiny tar, and it just lit the car up.I thought I had a puncture, just no grip at all." And how did I know this? There is a small dink in the lower rear o/s panel. That's the third event in a row he has dinked the same panel.
To those who don;t know, the local phenomenon of 'shiny tar' refes to recent nee road surfaces which seem to be oily and greasy until they get some cow and sheep dung into them, so when they get wet they can quite lethal at high speed.
Jonathan Mounsey (9) as usual is going well and holding 4th but he has Calum Duffy (3) on his tail, less than a minute behind with Calum displaying an evil grin which I take to infer that Jonathan is catchable! "We're going as hard as we can with the tools we've got," said Jonathan, "we had a big moment on the Lochs, flat out in top gear - and it stepped out!"
"I'm getting to grips with this and going a bit faster," said Gordon Morrison (19), referring to his new R5 which replaced his Subaru, "you have to be aggressive with it, and I'm a bit of an aggressive character." Aye, now there's an understatement, eh?
Stephen Thompson (15) is going well in 7th but there is hole in the tail of the Escort where a back light unit once was! Eddie O'Donnell (14) is up to 8th commenting:"I've never seen Torloisk junction so wet. The water was just streaming across the road. It was horrible."
In 9th place is Shaun Sinclair (11) who must be going better as Patrick has stopped stabbing him in the thight with his pencil while event sponsor John Marshall (30) saying: "We're in No Man's Land as regard to results but we're just keeping a steady pace."
Those of course are the lucky ones. John MacCrone (1) withdrew last night after injuring his back and Tristan Pye (6) blew his turbo this afternoon. Tony Bardy (10) had got further with his Focus WRC than he ever had before, then the clutch broke, and after an absolutely brilliant start, Stewart Morrison (21) lost his top ten placing when the engine failed this afternoon. Heartbreaking. Keir Beaton (67) managed to hang on to his superb 20th o/a placing despite finishing the Leg dragging a broken bottom suspension arm (just don't tell the Polis) on the road after bowfing a chicane and Magic Mike Storrar (74) arrived at the Salen Hotel with one gear and a broken back axle: "It happened near the end of the last stage," said Mike, 'but I managed to get all the way here in 2nd gear." And with the rally re-start just over 4 hours away, Mike is positively upbeat" We've got s are gearbox and we can weld up the axle." Someone is going to earn their Mars bars tonight, eh? First timer Oliver Benton (72) was originally down to co-drive but his Dad Steve persuaded him to drive instead and the motocross rider is currently holding a quite superb 13th place overall:"Dad told me the Mull Rally was amazing. This is my second ever rally, an dhe's right, Mull is amazing." Another convert from 2 wheels to 4 perhaps? Ian Chadwick (29) is 15th and the grin just keeps getting wider. The ex Fabia R2 driver says: "I've never jumped a car as much, and I've been coming here a long time. Ken doesn't tell me how I'm doing, so I've no idea where we are but we are getting close to Doug Weir on the stages so I consider that a good sign, Doug is very handy. We're having a lot of fun and scaring ourselevs silly!"
As ever, the weather continues to play havoc with predictions, just ask Billy Bird (16): "If you want someone to make a bad tyre choice, I'm the expert."
Which just leaves the final Leg of 4 stages to determine the outcome tonight. It's been 17 years since a non-islander last won the Mull Rally and that man was Daniel Harper. Shaping up to be quite a duel, eh?
Provisioanl leaderboard after SS13 (of 17 stages)
1, Paul MacKinnon, 1h 35m 23s
2, Daniel Harper, 1h 36m 29s
3, David Bogie, 1h 40m 58s
4, Jonahtna Mounsey, 1h 43m 32s
5, Calum Duffym 1h 44m 15s
6, Gordon Morrison, 1h 45m 29s
7, Stephen Thompson, 1h 46m 43s
8, Eddie O'Donnell, 1h 47m 17s
9, Shaun Sinclair, 1h 47m 50s
10, John Marshall, 1h 49m 09s