A new day and a new dawn, well, sort of. Anyone hoping that the rain would disappear for the final day of the Malts adventure was likely to be feeling disappointed this morning, as Pitlochry had been battered by the wet stuff all night long and as the mist hung low in the air for the cars departure it looked to be more of the same for the final act of the competition.
But negativity has no place in rallying, positive vibes was what was needed and as the first regularity of five began, there were hints that the sun was doing its best to break through the haze. But hopefully not too quickly, as the scene across Loch Tummel, with the mist clinging to the peaks of Conbhar and Meall na h-lolaire (easy for you to say) was otherworldly, like something from a film.
There may have been fog in the air, but after the treat of a lie-in and the latest start time of the week, the minds in the cockpits should have been razor sharp, especially those gunning for glory. Dick Baines cut a concerned figure, but those that asked him if he was alright were simply told, “I’m fine, this is just my face, I’ve been practicing this look for years.” He and his son Harry were well poised for the victory, despite the pack chasing hard and were just taking it steady, as Dick put it, “there’s no point us trying to tear up any trees today.”
Steady must suit them, as by lunchtime, and with just one regularity left they had dropped only five seconds and now were almost a minute ahead, with a joker in hand should disaster strike. Having a more troubling final day were Stephen and Thomas Owens, dropping 31 seconds and surrendering second place to Graham Platts and Neil Ripley, despite Neil’s assertions that they themselves weren’t having a good morning. The trouble for the Owens had come in the form of another road user, whose maximum speed was very much below the 30 mph that the rally cars are generally driving at. I’m not sure if it’s allowed by the regulations, but perhaps SO could fit some extendable shockers onto the little Porsche, Herbie style and prevent any future upsets.
It can be tough at the top on the final day, but everyone should remember this event is about fun. Certainly, Aussies Graeme Tonkin + Jayden Tonkin were enjoying themselves, and have been all week. They’ve turned it into a family trip, with their own squad of cheerleaders following them around and getting involved in rally life. Others too have been well into the spirit of things, like Edy Hug (CH) + Ruth Hug (CH), dressed head to toe in red, matching their gorgeous Mercedes Benz 230 SL Pagode Dave Batchelor and Jackie Batchelor, who has spent more time fixing his car than driving it, but has kept the thing going and without the intervention of the sweeps. There are also those that have been getting into the spirit of Whisky purchasing, and indeed young Harry Baines could start his own Scotch Empire with the amount he’s bought, I’m surprised the Mini is still moving under all that weight!
The locals we have encountered have been fantastic as well, just like on the Flying Scotsman the support has been fantastic and it is fabulous to see faces young and old lighting up with delight as the cars go through. There is always an exception though, and on the fourth regularity of today, a disgruntled homeowner decided to put her and the competitors’ lives in danger by standing in the road to stop the rally, much to the disgruntlement of her neighbours who had set up their picnic table and put their prized Jaguar on display as the rally came through.
With only one reg to go after lunch the chances of anyone derailing the Baines was minimal, so it was the fight for the final podium positions that had become interesting, with three cars still in the hunt. In the end 7. Graham Platts (GB) + Neil Ripley (GB) secured third in the 1956 Austin Healey 100M, with 5. Stephen Owens (GB) + Thomas Owens (GB) finishing third in the Porsche 356B. It was a close-run thing but the baulking experienced by the Owens on the final morning put paid to a second place or even a fight back into first.
So, at the end of it all our winners are number 20. Dick Baines (GB) + Harry Baines (GB) in the bright red Austin Mini Cooper, the car which carried the pair to victory in last year’s London Lisboa event. Eventually, they had cleared the field by… with Dick declaring “It’s great, a really good rally. There was a little less pressure on us at the end of this one than London Lisboa though!” and Harry adding “We’re really pleased, another great week and we’re really happy.”
More important than registering a victory though they have enjoyed themselves, on a rally that has possessed a great atmosphere throughout. There has been every ingredient needed to produce a wonderful event, a fabulous route from Clerk of the Course Nick Reeves, mostly tremendous weather and a field of competitors that have got stuck into the spirit of the event in their magnificent cars. Now all that remains is to celebrate those very participants, and their cars, and tell tales of this wonderful rally over a wee dram, long into the night.