John MacCrone Interview

John MacCrone Interview



Before the Presentation Ceremony in the Aros Hall in Tobermory, winning driver John MacCrone spoke to Jim McGill about how this year’s Beatson’s Mull Rally was the toughest he’s ever tackled; dealing with the rally loop-by-loop; having to create a whole new set of pacesnotes after his originals were destroyed; the challenges he faced over the last 12 months; and the importance of friends, family and Muileachs.

JM: How tough have the last three days been physically and emotionally?
JMac: It was a massive challenge. There’s no doubt it’s been difficult. I came into the rally with a game plan, and we stuck to that from the first to the last stage. We knew it was going to be a long, hard event, so we knew we didn’t necessarily have to push 100% everywhere, so that’s what we tried to do.
The conditions were hellish. They were so changeable; one minute it was dry; the next there were streams running across the road. D-Mack did a good job for us: we’ve used just about every compound they have.

JM: I imagine that’s the toughest one you’ve done?
JMac: Aye; it was really hard. After last year, it was important for me to be here and do it. It was difficult.

JM: How difficult was it mentally to deal with?
JMac: No doubt about it, it was difficult. It’s something which has affected my life a lot: and in little ways you don’t think about sometimes. I just knew I had to be here to do it.
We got the deal together with Stuart and Tunnock’s, and D-Mack. That was the first hurdle overcome: then we had to go out and see how we got on.

JM: But dealing with what happened last year must have added another severe test?
JMac: At the back of my mind, all the time, is what happened last year. When you’re rallying you’re not thinking about stuff like that, but it’s always there. This is something that’s happened which will never go away, and in many ways it’s surreal.

JM: Did you start the rally taking it one stage at a time?
JMac: Perhaps on Friday night, but overall not really: on the Saturday we were concentrating on each loop of three stages at a time. Probably the biggest drama for us was the front-left driveshaft we broke on the long stage; I honestly thought it was all over at that point.
It happened six miles from the end of the stage, so we still had a long way to go; plus we had another two stages to go before Service.

JM: How good were the guys changing the driveshaft?
JMac: Incredible. And you’ve got to remember they did it in the dark, it was at the side of the road, and they didn’t have all their tools. And they did it in just under three minutes. That allowed us to check-in on-time, and not pick up a penalty which would have ruined our hopes of winning.

JM: How did you prepare for the final stage?
JMac: Just like all the others really. We knew it was going to be slippy, so we eased ourselves into it with the tyres. The bit over the Lochs we had a little bit of a go. It was just a case of being clean and fast.

JM: If you can, can you give us an insight into your emotions once you’d crossed the line and realised you had won.
JMac: We’d been concentrating on doing the rally for however long we’d been doing it; certainly many months ago. All that’s on your mind is to … well, first of all, get a car and a deal together, which is never an easy thing to do in the first place, as you know.
Then you think about pacenotes. I had to write a whole new set of pacenotes this year because all my notes got destroyed last year in the car, so it was essentially starting again from a blank canvas.
I went out with my brother Alasdair, and uncle Peter before the rally to write new ones, because Stuart was really busy before the rally at — I think — San Marino; so he was away. So I wrote new notes with them.
Then, obviously you start the rally. You’re trying to do the best you can all the time. Like I said before to you, because we were leading we were never chasing, so we were always having to manage our pace.
We weren’t going flat out: we were concentrating on going at a pace which is safe, you’re not going to do any damage, but it still has to be fast enough not to lose too much time. So you’re concentrating on that.
But then, once we got to the end and realised we’d done it, it was just a big release of emotion. Just a … the bigger world all kind of becomes real again.

JM: For everyone who is part of the Mull Rally, they could fully understand — well, only begin to feel we understand — what emotions you must have been experiencing sitting in the car with Stuart at the end.
JMac: For me, last year is still a surreal experience; it’s still something you think, ‘did that really happen? Was that real life?’
To come back for the first time, a year after what happened, to win the rally is an absolute dream come true. It’s the absolute best thing that could have happened to me.

JM: Was there a feeling that it marked the end of one phase, and the start of another in your life?
Mac: Yeh, I think so. It’s definitely been something which has affected me all year. Even doing the Scottish Championship; a lot of people tipped us to go well, but I knew it was going to be a struggle to come back … and go fast straightaway.
My bottle on some of the fast sections has definitely … last year happened on a fast section … and to come back and drive fast, in the fast sections was a massive challenge, to be honest.
I took a massive knock to my confidence; you wonder about your pacenotes; you wonder about the car; you wonder about your tyres; you wonder if everything’s going to work ok? Then you start wondering, what if this happens?
So we had to build that up over the year. And it’s all come together for Mull, and that feels to me like the best place for it all to have made sense.

JM: Finally John, how important has the support of all the people on Mull been to you over the last 12 months?
JMac: The support from Mull has been incredible. My family and my friends have had to put up with a lot from me: I’m probably not the most straightforward person in the world, I can be quite complicated at times … but everybody stood by me and supported me 100%.
Even all the competitors; all the guys I was up against, they all wished me well, and it feels quite special, to have managed to do what we’ve done and I don’t feel I’m alone in enjoying this success. It feels like quite a widespread thing, so I’m obviously very, very happy.

Photos: Copyright of Lindsay Photo Sport


Stuart Loudon Interview

Stuart Loudon Interview


Before the Presentation Ceremony in the Aros Hall in Tobermory, winning co-driver Stuart Loudon spoke to Jim McGill about how tough the rally was; the subdued build-up to the final stage shoot-out; navigating by the light of his mobile phone … and those private emotional moments in the car with John MacCrone seconds after it was confirmed they had won the Beatson’s Mull Rally for a second time

JM: Congratulations Stuart: great win. How tough, from your perspective, have the last three days been?
SL: It was a very good rally, very well run by the organisers, considering the issues they had with stoppages and stuff.
It’s probably one of he toughest rallies I’ve ever done, certainly in relation to the conditions. Plus we had the clutch starting to go on Friday night, and then the driveshaft at the beginning of the final leg.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, on the start line for the final stage the map light broke, so I didn’t have a map light to read the notes all he way through the last, crucial 15 miles.
Basically I had to lock my phone and use the light which was coming off the screen from the phone to read the notes. Let’s say, it was interesting.

JM: How did you prep for the final stage?
SL: We parked-up about a mile-and-a-half away from the start of the stage, and it was just us, and Calum and iain. It was very subdued; very quiet. We just chatted away amongst ourselves. Then there was a shake of the hands, and a ‘good luck’. Then go for it and get our heads down.
It was one of those moments where we knew what we had to do; just keep clean and tidy. And we were hoping that when we got to the start of the stage there wasn’t going to be a big delay, because we’d been caught out with that before.
But we were lucky: we got to the start of the stage and we were straight in within a few minutes, which meant everything was warm and working well … apart from the map light.

JM: Did the stage then go as planned?
SL: Yeh, it did. We had no moments at all, apart from one slight one near the end of the Lochs, but nothing really to write home about. It was pretty safe. A very, very measured drive from John.

JM: From your perspective Stuart, and you know John probably more than anyone in terms of being in a car, how difficult have these last three days been for him?
SL: We’ve spoken about it, and he’s said it’s been the toughest rally he’s ever done. And I don’t think that’s just physically; I think that’s mentally and emotionally too.
But you look at — and of course, this is the second time we’ve won — the first time we won in 2013, and everything went in our favour. Calum went our very early-on on the Friday night, and then the weather that weekend was bone dry.
This weekend we’ve had terrible weather conditions; we’ve had Calum on great form in his new car; and then we’ve had some mechanical gremlins as well.
But it’s just showed that John has the mental strength to be able to block out those things and just keep the head focused on the job.

JM: And clearly the release of John’s emotions at the end, once you both came through the finish line; those few minutes in the car with him must have been pretty special.
SL: Yeh, it was. And that’s one thing from the start of the rally, right up until we arrived down in Tobermory at the end of the final stage, there had been no emotion. There had been nothing like that. We were there to do a job, and that was it.
But then once we came over the finish, and it all basically became real and we knew we’d won, that’s when the emotion started.
It was very special. But it was just one of those things we just had to have between ourselves.
The good thing was, everyone knew what was going on, and what John had come through: there was a huge amount of respect from everybody who gave us the time, and didn’t automatically pull the doors open.
We have to thank everybody for that. It really was a fantastic, and very special moment.

Photos: Copyright of Lindsay Photo Sport


Car 18 update



The crew — Doug Weir and Linda Brown — of Car 18, which went off in last night’s final stage and who had to be taken to hospital, have been in contact to give us an update, and thank the people involved in their treatment.

Doug is now back at his house on Mull, resting. Co-driver Linda was flown to hospital in Glasgow for further examination and tests. These proved to be clear, and she will remain in hospital overnight simply for observation.

Both Doug and Linda wished to pass on their thanks to the rescue crew, marshals, ambulance and doctors who treated them at the scene. They are also grateful to all the well-wishers who have sent them their support.

Leg 2 Report


Dervaig duo John MacCrone and Calum Duffy have set up a thrilling finale to the 47th running of the Beatson’s Mull Rally after a second Leg dominated by weather and tyre choice.

MacCrone, the 2013 winner, saw his overnight advantage of 45-seconds reduced to just 36s, with tonight’s final four stages remaining.

After Derek McGeehan was fastest through this afternoon’s opening test at Ardtun, it was MacCrone and Duffy who shared fastest times through the following eight stages.

Significantly, nine-time winner Duffy was quickest in four of the final five tests as he demonstrated he was getting more confidence behind the wheel of his bespoke Skoda S2500.

MacCrone though, sharing his Ford Fiesta R5 with Uddingston’s Stuart Loudon, knows he faces a tough evening.

“We’ve done what we aimed to do this afternoon, and that was to hold on to the lead,” he said. “Now we have to focus on tonight, and make sure we get make the right tyre choice in the changing conditions.”

Parts of Mull were battered by torrential rain this afternoon, while others appeared to dodge the rainfall. The result was a number of confused drivers juggling between slicks, intermediates or full wets. By the end of the afternoon, most were on full wets.

The battle for overall honours, which had looked to be a three-way fight, was diluted on the day’s second stage at Loch Kinloch when Paul Mackinnon went out. The Tobermory driver spun his Subaru Impreza, blocking the stage and causing a 35min stoppage. Thankfully both drivers are ok.

Another local favourite, James MacGillivray, who had been lying seventh, retired his Impreza when it suffered a driveshaft failure on SS11.

Multiple Scottish rally champ David Bogie, making his Mull debut, at one time looked on course for a podium finish in his MkII Escort. But a combination of the treacherous conditions and broken wiper motor delayed him: he heads into the evening fourth, just 19s behind the Impreza of Lewis Gallagher. The third-placed driver from Tobermory is 4mins 37secs behind Duffy.

And Fergus Barlow found himself on something of an economy run through the middle loop of three stages. The Tobermory driver left final Service having forgotten to refuel his Ford Fiesta R2. But after driving ‘economically’ and short-shifting, he managed to limp to an emergency Service halt with just a ‘thimbleful’ of fuel remaining.

“That was close,” he laughed as he exited SS12, “but we’re still in the rally.”

The action restarts tonight at 21h53 with the longest stage of the rally, the 21.89-miler at Calgary Bay, followed by the final three stages before finishing in Tobermory.

Jim McGill

MacCrone 1:38.11
Duffy +0.36
Gallagher +5.13
Bogie +5.32
Mounsey +5.53
McGeehan +5.54
Sinclair +8.08
Tarbutt +10.03
Rintoul +12.25
Gibson +12.27


3. John MacCrone: Very slippy in there. We’re just bedding ourselves into the rally again. But slippery than I expected. We’ll just go steady for the firs three stages and see what they guys right behind me do: then we’ll react accordingly.

1. Calum Duffy: very slippy. Standing water; but a clean run. Could have been better. e chose the tyres for the next two longer stages, so we’ll get better.

2. Paul Mackinnon: Just kept it steady. Enjoying it though. We’ll keep the pace up and try to close the gap to the guys ahead. But we’re having fun.

11. Lewis Gallagher: That was ok.

5. Jonathan Mounsey: Slippy, but it definitely woke me up. The tyres were coming on toward the end of the stage.

14. David Bogie: That was ok. Neat and tidy. Really enjoying it, but now’s the time to push.

9. James MacGillivray: That was slippy.

10. Derek McGeehan: Nice to get back into the daylight again.

20: Shaun Sinclair: We’ll get the wet tyres on now: looks like it’s going to pour. But that was good.

25: Fergus Barlow: We came through there with no intercom. Did the stage just with hand signals, and it was tough.


3. John MacCrone: Really wet and tricky in there. Lot more challenging considering we did it on slick tyres which had been sat still getting cold for ages.

1. Calum Duffy: Car’s good now after the changes we made overnight: just on the wrong tyres.

11. Lewis Gallagher: Very slippy now in the rain. Just concentrated on keeping my head together in there.

5. Jonathan Mounsey: Very happy in there. Stage very wet.

14: David Bogie: Lot of standing water. Enjoyable stage, but very, very tricky.

9. James MacGillivray: That was fine. Lot of muck on the road pulled out by the cars in front cutting the corners.

10. Derek McGeehan: That was ok: I’m still enjoying it.

20. Shaun Sinclair: Delighted with that. The tyres were coming in nicely towards the end of the stage.

22. Matt Tarbutt: Opted for slicks this morning, but would have done better with inters.

7. John Cope: We were on the right tyres, which gave me a lot of confidence in there. Enjoyed it.

18. Doug Weir: Pretty tricky. Lot of standing water on top of smooth tar. I just need to be a bit more confident.

25: Fergus Barlow: Thankfully we got the intercom sorted. That was a good, fast stage. A lot better.

32: Ross Marshall: That was good. Tough to find grip. But the co-driver’s giving me the thumbs-up, so I must have one something right.

30: Pete Gibson: We had one moment in there, just before the finish. But we survived: just difficult to judge the pace.

17: John Cressey: Powersteering’s sorted: just had no grip. Brings smile to your face when you have wheelsman in 4th gear!

16: Alan Gardiner: Slicks on the back: very wet; no grip. But we’re here. and I’m smiling.

21: Donnie MacDonald: Absolutely loving it.

12: Eddie O’Donnell: Problems with the electrics, wipers and gearbox. we got through that one because the co-driver was operating the wipers by tugging a loose wire.


3. John MacCrone: That was one of the toughest stages I’ve ever done: we were sideways all the way through it. We’ve got slicks on, and I’m not sure it was the right choice.

1. Calum Duffy: Slippy, but happy. Soft slicks, so I’m happy with our performance.

11. Lewis Gallagher: We’ve changed tyres and the set-up, and the car’s a lot better. We’re on inters.

5. Jonathan Mounsey: Happy. It was very slippy for the first mile or so, but I enjoyed the stage.

14. David Bogie: We spun, then stalled and had to reverse out of it. Plus the wipers are not working, and it’s raining hard. Not ideal, but we’ll battle on.

9. James MacGillivray: We slid a wee bit wide at the last hairpin and caught a bit of mud: but we’re ok.

10. Derek McGeehan: Loved that.

20. Shaun Sinclair: That was unbelievably slippy. Glad to have got through unscathed.

22. Matt Tarbutt: We went for a ‘cut tyre’, but it didn’t make much difference to the grip.

7. John Cope: We didn’t find that stage too bad. Really enjoyed it. We’ve got inters on.

18. Doug Weir: That was good. Had the right tyres, and we went better through that than we did last night. Far more enjoyable.

25. Fergus Barlow: We’ve made an error. We didn’t fuel-up at service and I’m not convinced we have enough fuel to do this loop of three stages. We’ll just have to short-shift a lot and keep our fingers crossed.

32: Ross Marshall: Good stage, and we managed to get heat into the tyres.

30: Pete Gibson: We kept the same tyres from this morning, and it was the right decision. Happy with that.

17. John Cressey: If they had ’Strictly Come Dancing’ for cars, we’d have won that after the way we were billing about in that stage. It was brilliant.

16. Alan Gardiner: It was ok. I’ve got wets on the front, so I’m looking for rain. And looking at the sky, I think it’ll find me.

21. Donnie MacDonald: Good to get a clean run through after the problems we had in there last night. It’s sensational: typical Mull.


3. John MacCrone: Happy enough. But really tricky, and very wet. Decided to be cautious. Hard going.

1. Calum Duffy: That was ok. Lot of shiny black tar and standing water. Very tricky.

11. Lewis Gallagher: Really slippy: lot of torque-steer.

5. Jonathan Mounsey: We had a whole rally’s worth of moments in that stage: but boy was it fun! Brilliant!

14. David Bogie: Very difficult with all the standing water. It’s raining harder, and our wiper motor is getting even slower. Just hoping to get the car back to service.

10. Derek McGeehan: Very slippy. We came past James MacGillivray, who has parked his car up on a grass bank: both guys are ok.

20. Shaun Sinclair: That was terrible: conditions were so bad that for much of the stage the car was in control, and we were just passengers. But we’ll be here to make a charge tonight.

22. Matt Tarbutt: Think we’re going to swap to full wets at Service. Nothing else seems to be working in terms of grip.

7. John Cope: Very tricky, but we’re happy with that stage. We softened the car a bit this morning, so that’s made it better.

18. Doug Weir: Tricky: very wet. Car’s going fine, so can’t complain.

17. John Cressey: Really enjoying it. But I think we’ll change tyres at Service.

16. Alan Gardiner: Not bad. It felt ok. But we definitely need to put full its on now.

21. Donnie MacDonald: I got held up behind the MkI Escort in front of us: I’m livid. We were stuck behind him for four male. We’ve got 4WD and the right tyres. It cost us a barrowload of time. He should have let us pass. Not happy.


3. John MacCrone: Good enough run: had to be reasonably safe because of the conditions. Lot of standing weather in there.

1. Calum Duffy: That was ok: happy with that. Lot of standing water. All to play for tonight.

11. Lewis Gallagher: Fine run: slippy though.

5. Jonathan Mounsey: All sorts of issues with the car, but we’ll nurse it back to Service.

14. David Bogie: The rally’s been great fun to drive, but the weather is making it really difficult to get the power down. Just need to fill myself with loads of coffee now for tonight.

10. Derek McGeehan: Really tricky trying to identify the standing water.

20. Shaun Sinclair: Broken driveshaft, but she’s still going. Hopefully we can limp back to Service and get it sorted.

22. Matt Tarbutt: Changed to wets, so the car has a lot more feel: and I’m more confident. It’s all about survival now.

18. Doug Weir: Tricky: We’re still going: very wet and tricky.

17. John Cressey: Good fun: really good fun.

21. Donnie MacDonald: I’m in better form now: had a bit of a rage earlier, so sorry about that. That was a brilliant run: our notes have been sensational so far..

7. John Cope: We had a puncture in there and had to stop to change it: probably dropped around 3mins.