Stunning – a word that cropped up on many an occasion before, during and after Mull rally 2010. The RABrallyesport team of Richard and Andy Barnard in their RDR Motorsport prepared Subaru Impreza WRX set about this most demanding of closed road special stage rallies for the first time. Additional sponsorship from the Trout Hotel in Cockermouth enabled a very professional attempt at the event with co-driver Andy travelling to Mull the week before the rally to do a detailed recce. Being able to travel over the stages at a leisurely pace, with wife Carol driving, meant that the stunning scenery that is Mull could be enjoyed.
The rest of the team arrived on the Wednesday before the start and the rally crew undertook a full recce crossing the stages in the same periods of time they would encounter on the night/day/night event. It was at this point that Richard found out how stunning the stages would be with some challenging roads full of crests, hairpins and some mighty drops down to the sea in places.
Scrutineering and documentation took place on Friday and the RABrallyesport Impreza left the start line at 9.23pm to travel to Stage 1, 14 miles over Glen Aros and the Hill Road. Sitting on the start line of the first stage with neither crew member having used pace notes before on an event meant that a steady run over this first test would be in order and an early retirement not on the agenda. The second stage was cancelled for most of the field after a Mark 2 Escort flew off the road injuring the crew and catching fire. A short blast over Loch Scridain was the third stage and then it was in to service at Craignure with just routine checks and a splash of fuel before heading off to what turned out to be Richards favourite stage, Mishnish Lochs. Calgary Bay followed, all 11 miles of it, with another 11 miler, Loch Tuath, finishing off the first leg. So, the first part of the event done and everybody climbed into to bed to get maximum rest before the Saturday daylight stages. Again very little to do to the car before embarking on Leg 2, routine stuff with the brakes bled and new fluid put in as a precaution.
Loch Tuath, reverse of the last stage, started proceedings and then another reverse, Calgary Bay, followed by Mishnish Lochs again took cars into the Tobermory service area. Richard and Andy found things a little easier with pace notes in daylight and the learning experience of a first visit to Mull continued without many dramas. The Subaru was performing very reliably with no problems and tyres were wearing well despite the unusually hot and sunny conditions on the island. The daylight leg continued with a run over Gribun,competitively for the first time as the stage was a repeat of 2 which had been scrubbed after the night-time crash. Stage 11, Loch Scridain, brought daytime proceeding to an end and with a restart time of just after 10.00pm there was a chance to give the car a thorough check-over and for all to get some rest before the final leg. So with plenty of time to spare the crew left Craignure for the Salen control to check in for the last time, or so they thought. A serious road accident involving a rally car had closed the road to Salen and with the occupants needing to be cut out of the car and airlifted to hospital a small group of competitors, Richard and Andy included, were cut off from the rest of the field. When agreement was reached between the organisers and the police to allow an escorted convoy to be taken past the accident scene the rally could continue albeit for about half a dozen cars running over an hour late.
Leg 3 started with the Long One, just over 22 miles linking Loch Tuath and Calgery Bay together, and was a cracking test of car and crew to maintain a pace that would last through the stage but through it they came. Stunning! Another burst over Mishnish Lochs and another service at Craignure where it was thought the organisers might have pulled back some of the lost time but seemed to allow everyone the full service time allocation which when nothing needs to be done seems to last forever but if you have a problem would be well appreciated. No problems for the RAB car so a bit of heel kicking was done.
3 stages to go and the decision was to go for a finish and not do anything silly or so that was what was said in the car but Richard had been thinking differently. Lying 61st he thought he could catch the car in front over the last three stages to finish 60th (it sounds better!). Stage 14 saw the Fiesta ST in front take another second off Richard and stage 15 another 6 seconds and despite Richard taking 17 seconds off the Fiesta on the last stage the gap had not been closed and 61st it was to be.
112 cars set out on the Mull Rally 2010 with 44 going out with a variety of problems and excursions so to finish the event was good and to do so on your first attempt even better. A lot was learnt through the 2 or 3 days and nights that will no doubt stand Richard in good stead for his next visit to Mull and his future rallying activity. Thanks must go to RDR Motorsport for again putting together a super reliable car, to the Trout Hotel for supporting the entry.
If ever there was a test of a cars suspension then Mull is it and the XYZ Auto UK coil-overs worked a treat and contributed to the cars excellent handling.
And the final stunning? The winner, Calum Duffy, who does live on the island but on the Long |One set a time of 19.07. The RAB time, 26.14 – stunning!