Twelve months after his rally ended prematurely on the fourth stage of the Friday night, when he slid backwards into a ditch, Calum Duffy sealed his eighth Tunnock's Mull Rally victory.
But the Dervaig ace, piloting his Ford Escort MkII, and co-driven by brother Iain, endured a few nervous minutes of uncertainty after he took the flying finish at the end of the final stage, the 22-mile aptly-named Long One."I really thought we'd blown it," Duffy, who started the final test with a 2min 23sec advantage over the Subaru Impreza of nearest rival Tristan Pye, admitted.
"I really felt I'd had a rubbish final stage. My rear tyres had gone completely by the time we still had the final six miles to do.
"The car's been great all weekend, and to win 12 months after we went out so early last year makes this win all the sweeter."
While Duffy clocked 22mins 19secs for the final test, Pye shaved a whopping 28s off the Mullean's time and eventually finished 1m 58s away from his first Mull win.
The Bishop Auckland driver though was delighted with his result, and overall performance in the rally, backed for the first time by EventScotland.
"I know it's an old cliche, but I'm over the moon," he beamed. "It's been a lot of hard work all weekend, but to finish second behind Calum is an achievement: I'm feeling pretty proud, to be honest."
There was disappointment though for the large and expectant crowd which had gathered at Dervaig to watch the finish, hoping to see their local heroes bag another 1-2.
But while Duffy celebrated, last year's winner John MacCrone suffered the cruellest of disappointments.
Starting the final test in his Tunnocks and Castrol-liveried Ford Fiesta R200 in third, just 39s behind Pye, the Dervaig ace — who set seven fastest times as he recovered from the 'off' on SS1 which cost him 2min 30secs and dropped him to 63rd in the 140-car field — was determined to ease himself into second.
But midway through the final stage, his car suffered a broken driveshaft after a jump within sight of the finish line. Despite limping on in an effort to finish, the car's second driveshaft broke on an uphill section and he was forced to park-up at the side of the road.
"Gutted, to be honest," a clearly disappointed MacCrone, co-driven by Larkhall's Stuart Loudon, admitted afterwards. "Would we have caught Tristan? I don't know, but we were certainly 'on it' through the opening section of the stage.
"I finished second here behind Calum two years ago, and won last year, so it would definitely have been brilliant to have been on the podium again. But it wasn't to be."There was disappointment too for longtime leader James MacGillivray. The Salen driver — fastest on five of the opening six stages, and who led for much of the rally — was forced out when he went off in his Subaru Impreza on stage 11 at Penmore.
And with the Escort MkII of Ellon's Doug Weir — who started the final stage in a comfortable fourth — going off on the final stage, Bury's John Cope found himself in third."I'm amazed," the Subaru Impreza driver admitted. "I didn't think I'd get anywhere near the podium, but a couple of the guys who started ahead of me suffered misfortune, and I've been in the right place to capitalise on it. I feel sorry for them, but I'll happily take the podium place."
And while veteran Jimmy McRae was forced to retire his MkI Escort with recurring fuel-feed problems, Tobermory's Fergus Barlow clinched seventh place overall, and the coveted two-wheel drive Class win.
"Class win, and seventh overall? If someone had suggested that before the start of the rally I'd have laughed: and I'd then have bitten their hand off," he said. "I'm so, so pleased with this result. It's been fantastic."
45th Tunnock's Mull Rally — Result:1. Calum Duffy (Dervaig) / Iain Duffy (Dervaig) Ford Escort MkII 2hrs 28mins 32secs;2. Tristan Pye (Bishop Auckland) / Andrew Falconer (Inverness) Subaru Impreza +1mins 55secs;3. John Cope (Bury) / Clive Molyneux (Blackburn) Subaru Impreza WRC +10:05;4. Richard Cook (Lamplugh) / Edwin Cook (Lamplugh) Subaru Impreza +11:10;5. Billy Bird (York) / Plug Pulleyn (York) Vauxhall Chevette +11:18;6. Shaun Sinclair (Connel) / Chris Hamill (Oban) Mitsubishi Evo VIII +11:24;7. Fergus Barlow (Tobermory) / Alastair MacCrone (Dervaig) Ford Fiesta R2 +12:07;8. Chris Haigh (Helperby / Sally Peacock (Helperby) Ford Escort +13:16;9. Ian Chadwick (Cork) / Johnnie Bould (Glasgow) Skoda Fabia F2 +13:40;10. John Rintoul (Leven) / Nick Rintoul (Leven) Hyundai Accent WRC +13:56.