Nine seconds determined the outcome of this year's Beatson's Building Supplies Mull Rally. After 150 miles of cut-throat, butt clenching competition, Paul Mackinnon with Paul Beaton took his 4th victory by just 9 secs from Daniel Harper and denying him his third crown. Astounding! Mackinnon first acquaintance with the new Hyundai was at the rally shakedown, so he was still learning on that first night, but then to go and win the bluidy thing. Amazing.
Hard lines for Harper and Chris Campbell. It could have been closer still as the MINI stalled on the start line of a Saturday afternoon stage necessitating a switch-off and compulsory re-set which takes an agonising 15 seconds as the car sat there just yards past the stage start line, silent but the clock already underway. Fortunately it fired up instantly after the reset and they were off but the lead has gone in that silly, electrical glitch.
After the daylight run, David Wright had closed the gap to 19 seconds on third placed John MacCrone but come the 30 miler and the Escort took a minute and 20 seconds out of the Fiesta. Job done.
Stephen Thompson had a marvellous run too in the 2 litre Mk2. He hasn't done many events this past couple of years, and despite the rust, finished 5th just ahead of the impressively fast improving newcomer to the sport, Neil Roskell. Wayne Sisson ensured that Mitsubishis can still be contenders as can Subaru Imprezas with Craig Rutherford 8th. And but for a "silly off", Stewart Morrison might have done better than 9th in his 2 litre Escort, but what about Alan Gardner? Tenth in a Mk1. OK it's a Millington Mk1, and the running gear is shit hot, but it's still a Mk1.
Event sponsor John Marshall had an excellent run into 11th just ahead of the 2 litre Mk2 of Mick Harbour but what about Ross Hunter in the Peugeot 205. 13th overall in a car powered by a 96,000 mile ex-taxi Citroen Xantia 2 litre engine. Incredible.
And then there's Des and Kev. Bluidy hell. The two front running 1600 cars finished 19th and 20th overall. A mighty effort from Dangerous Des in the wee Peugeot in the dark and streaming wet saw him overhaul King Kev in the Nova to take the class by 0.9 seconds. Yup, you read that right, less than ONE second separated this pair of fighting terriers. If you thought the fight for overall victory was close, the winning margin here was less than a BSB - British Standard Ba'hair.
Third in this class was young Archie Swinscoe. 25th overall in a Vauxhall Adam - stunning! This is only Archie's first full season in 'senior' rallying and his previous experience of night time rallies was the Jim Clark Friday night run and then Argyll, and remember, he put it off in the dark in Argyll! But to come here to Mull and do this. Watch out Rovanpera and Solberg, there's another youngster on the make.
Speaking of youngsters, John Cressey scored a scintillating 35th overall in a 'proper' Mini winning the 1300 class. If anyone exemplifies the spirit of Mull then it's North Yorkshire's Cressey. With his son Martin co-driving, Cressey Snr can trace his roots back to the 1990s and early 2000s when he and Ian Grindrod were regular top six finishers in a succession of Opel Mantas and Astras, and here he is, still rallying on Mull for the sheer fun of it in a wee Mini. Second in class was the mighty mouse itself, the Metro City of Innes Mochrie with daughter Kirsty keeping faither on the not so straight and very narrow. Magic.
And speaking of co-drivers, they too are stars of the show. Rallying, especially on Mull, is a team sport, and then there are the real stalwarts, the service crews. Lying in puddles with water running down their necks and out their trousers legs trying to fix the bluidy things that get battered, bent and broken.
Mull is not just about the winners though. Each and every finisher had their own personal victories, whilst the non-finishers will have their own very personal and often painful tales to tell too.
And the real nutters? Sorry, heroes? Those orange clad masochists who stood rooted and anchored to their posts throughout the weekend. It's a surprise none of them were blown off their feet across the Sound and onto the mainland!
As for this spectating lark. I stood there sodden, from bunnet to boot, feet splungeing on the move through wet grass and puddles, head bent against the wind and horizontal rain and thought, "WTF?" And then MacCrone came by, tyres smacking on the streaming wet tar, spray swishing from all four wheels, the bark of four mad mental cylinders thrashing out their rock'n'roll mechanical cacophany, red hot gases erupting from the pipe at the back, the tail sashaying out of the bend as the front wheels turned into the drift. Ya beezer, this spectating lark could maybe catch on, eh?
1, Paul MacKinnon/Paul Beaton (Hyundai i20 Rally2) 2hrs 13mins 05.7secs
2, Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (MINI JCW WRC) 2h 13m 14.1s
3, John MacCrone/Peter MacCrone (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h 14m 55.6s
4, David Wright/Paula Swinscoe (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 17m 49.3s
5, Stephen Thompson/Larry Higton (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h 22m 54.6s
6, Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughhead (Ford Fiesta R5) 2h 26m 55.2s
7, Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX) 2h 27m 40.1s
8, Craig Rutherford/Michael Hendry (Subaru Impreza) 2h 28m 32.4s
9, Stewart Morrison/Jason MacPhail (Ford Escort Mk2) 2h 29m 47.9s
10, Alan Gardiner/Dave Robson (Ford Escort Mk1) 2h 29m 51.4s