Maccrone and Loudon take sec­ond Mull win as Duffy gives Skoda bril­liant Mull de­but.

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By John Fife

Amere 10 sec­onds sep­a­rated the win­ners from the run­ners-up after 150 miles of stages on the Beat­son’s Mull Rally, and the re­sult was in doubt till the end of the fi­nal 18th stage.

Re­peat­ing their 2013 vic­tory, the Ford Fi­esta R5 crew of John Maccrone and Stu­art Loudon held off the con­stant threat posed by the Skoda Fabi­aMilling­ton of Calum and Iain Duffy.

Re­lief and sat­is­fac­tion were both ev­i­dent at the fin­ish as Maccrone sat in the car for long mo­ments with his head in his hands. A year on from the tragic ac­ci­dent which claimed the life of friend and co-driver An­drew Mort, this was an ex­cep­tion­ally emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence for Maccrone. A com­fort­ing hand on his arm from co-driver Stu­art Loudon stead­ied the crew be­fore they were greeted by the Duffy duo. It wasn’t only a fair sport­ing re­sult, it was the right re­sult, es­pe­cially after what had hap­pened 12 months ago. “This one’s for ‘Morty’,” said an emo­tional Maccrone.

The ex­pected three-way fight lost its third pro­tag­o­nist on the first stage when Paul Mack­in­non and Daniel Bar­ritt put their Subaru off the road on cold tyres. There­after there was lit­tle to choose be­tween Maccrone and Duffy, but Derek Mcgee­han achieved a per­sonal tar­get, fin­ish­ing on the podium in third place.

Leg one

The first stage was wet and the sec­ond one was dry, so crews were al­ready hav­ing to make dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions. Not only that, the start of the first stage was within walk­ing dis­tance of Tober­mory so there was lit­tle chance to warm up tyres. That would be cru­cial as it turned out.

Maccrone opened pro­ceed­ings with fastest time by five sec­onds from Duffy, but there was no sign of Mack­in­non.

“I got caught out un­der brak­ing on cold tyres, it just slid,” he said. “I put one wheel on the grass, and I was off. It was my own fault.”

That earned him a max­i­mum time and dropped him to 138th place over­all. Shaun Sin­clair suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate. “Cold tyres, slippy tar – and driv­ing beyond my abil­ity,” he said. The Mit­subishi Lancer E10 struck the wall at Bak­ery Cor­ner, dam­ag­ing the frontoff­side cor­ner, but he man­aged to keep go­ing. Don­nie Mac­don­ald was an­other to suc­cumb to cold tyre syn­drome, smack­ing the side of his Lancer E9. The im­pact pushed the door in and struck his arm, which he then had to have strapped up to fin­ish the rally.

On the next stage, the tor­tu­ous 14-mile run over the Hill Road and down Loch Tuath, Mack­in­non took half a minute out of Duffy. The fight­back was on. Mean­while, Maccrone was hav­ing the best of it with Duffy ad­mit­ting: “It was all down to bad tyre choices. We went out on su­per­softs and they were knack­ered half­way through.”

Be­hind those two, Daniel Harper was try­ing hard in the BMW Mini. He broke a wheel against a bridge para­pet in the first test, but the tyre stayed in­flated, then the car slid fully off the road in the next. “All four wheels on the grass, I was auto-cross­ing,” he said.

Less flam­boy­ant, but car­ry­ing no less speed was lo­cal driver Lewis Gal­lagher. First time in the Subaru since last year’s Mull, he was right on the pace. Sadly, that bat­tle ended abruptly in the fourth test when the Mini’s throt­tle cable broke and after tem­po­rary re­pairs, the clutch failed.

On his third visit to the is­land Derek Mcgee­han was bat­tling with the Subaru of James Macgil­livray, Jonathan Moun­sey in the Mit­subishi and Tris­tan Pye in his Subaru. On the fi­nal stage of the night, Pye’s fuel pump started to fail, the car de­vel­oped a mis­fire and he switched off rather than risk the en­gine. Tony Bardy didn’t even get that far. The Ford Fo­cus de­vel­oped a gear­box fault on the down­shift and he was out on stage three, with Billy Bird go­ing out in the next stage, also with a bro­ken gear­box.

By close of leg one Mack­in­non was back in 12th place, with Maccrone lead­ing Duffy by 45 sec­onds. Gal­lagher was al­ready two min­utes be­hind this pair but ahead of Moun­sey and the top 2WD ma­chine, the Ford Es­cort Mk2 of David Bo­gie, but his wasn’t the only 2WD ma­chine in the top 10. Stephen Thomp­son, the num­ber 43 seed, was hav­ing a mar­vel­lous run in his sim­i­lar Es­cort.

Leg two

Satur­day fea­tured a longer run than usual in day­light with a to­tal of nine stages, and it was dry, mostly. It also suited Mcgee­han: “I don’t mind the dark, but the lo­cal boys can get away from me – they don’t get as far away in the day­light.”

Mack­in­non started leg two as he fin­ished the first, at full chat. It didn’t last long. On the sec­ond test, the Subaru lost grip on ‘shiny’ tar, spun, dam­aged the car’s nose, broke the steer­ing and blocked the stage.

That left a straight two-way fight for the lead be­tween long-time scrap­pers, Maccrone and Duffy. Ini­tially the Ford man had the up­per hand, but then the Skoda started to top the stage times.

“I’m go­ing as hard as I think it’s safe to go in th­ese con­di­tions,” said Maccrone, with Duffy hav­ing to push that lit­tle bit harder in heavy rain. “At least it makes tyre choice eas­ier,” quipped Duffy, “I’d rather have it re­ally wet than patchy wet.”

Gal­lagher was still hold­ing third place al­though Bo­gie had dis­placed Moun­sey for fourth. “The car was aqua­plan­ing at road-go­ing speed, never mind rally speeds, there was so much stand­ing wa­ter,” said Moun­sey. Only one sec­ond be­hind him was Mcgee­han go­ing well in day­light. Shaun Sin­clair was go­ing well after his ear­lier bump and was up to sev­enth ahead of Matt Tar­butt. Sadly Thomp­son lost out on a po­ten­tial 10th-place fin­ish when the Es­cort’s rear wheels just slipped off the edge of the road and dragged the car back­wards into a ditch.

The 2005 Mull win­ner Macgil­livray’s strong show­ing also came to an abrupt halt in Mish­nish Lochs when the Subaru broke a drive­shaft, while Bruce Ed­wards beached his Dar­rian nearby and both joined the grow­ing ranks of the re­tired.

Leg three

It was al­most dry for the start of the fi­nal leg with Maccrone’s lead hav­ing been re­duced to 36 sec­onds, and with still 50 miles left to run.

Duffy con­tin­ued to pull back a few sec­onds each stage, but Maccrone had a ma­jor piece of good for­tune. Al­though a drive­shaft broke on the penul­ti­mate stage, it was near the end and he was able to reach ser­vice for re­pairs be­fore the fi­nal push.

Not so lucky were Bo­gie and Gal­lagher. Gal­lagher’s fuel pump over­heated while he sat in the queue wait­ing to start the Scridain test and that was him out, while Bo­gie’s dis­ap­pear­ance was rather more dra­matic. He had been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing wiper mo­tor prob­lems and on the Loch Tuath stretch, he slid straight on at a ‘left one’ which fol­lowed a ‘left two’. No dam­age, but the Es­cort sunk to its axles in peat!

Sin­clair was more for­tu­nate. The Lancer’s rear ‘diff broke as he

ap­proached the end of the penul­ti­mate test and was able to clat­ter his way into ser­vice and have it re­placed.

There was big­ger drama on the fi­nal stage when 11th placed Doug Weir and Linda Brown crashed out of the run­ning and the stage had to be stopped to ex­tract the crew.

That left the sim­ple mat­ter of win­ning to be de­cided be­tween two driv­ers. Duffy had re­duced Maccrone’s ad­van­tage to 18 sec­onds by the start of the fi­nal stage – which was 15 miles long.

As things turned out, it was too big an ask. “I gave it a go,” said Duffy, “but I cooked the tyres half­way through.” Nev­er­the­less, he had cut the win­ner’s mar­gin to 10 sec­onds at the fin­ish.

Be­hind Mcgee­han, Sin­clair and Tar­butt rounded out the top five.

And so ended the 47th Beat­son’s Mull Rally. Maccrone and Loudon scored a hugely pop­u­lar sec­ond vic­tory on this event after their 2013 win, while the Duffy broth­ers just missed out on their 10th. Mcgee­han can be well pleased too with his podium fin­ish, al­ways reck­on­ing that to do so had been the re­sult of a three-year plan.

This be­ing Mull, the rain had the last word. For the first time in seven years, the prize-giv­ing had to be held in­doors, but be­fore he went in­side Maccrone ‘toasted’ his friend and poured the vic­tory cham­pagne over the ‘Morty’ sticker on the front wing of the Fi­esta. Job done.

Maccrone sprays cham­pagne after his toast to Andy Mort

Mack­in­non crashed out early

Maccrone beat­ing nine-time win­ner Duffy is no mean feat

Pho­tos: Son­gas­port, John Fife

Calum Duffy’s Skoda Fabia-milling­ton con­ver­sion was rapid on just its third event

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