Finally Fergus

Finally Fergus!  Barlow claims Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally win

  • Tobermory driver Fergus Barlow wins scintillating battle for the 2023 Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally top honour
  • Local heroes battled with island newcomers and regular contenders in a bid to seal the coveted crown as arduous rally took its toll on front-runners
  • 51st running of the Mull Rally heralded a fantastic success, as the Hebridean island once again welcomed fans, crews and teams from across the globe

Tobermory driver Fergus Barlow fulfilled a “boyhood dream” to win his home rally, by taking victory at the weekend’s Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally [13-15 October].

After seventeen stages and over 134 miles of competitive action, it was the local hero and co-driving brother Craig [all the way from New Zealand] who jumped onto the roof of their Ford Fiesta Rally2 in front of a packed-out crowd at the finish to celebrate, with emotions high and friends and family eager to congratulate the pairing.

It was a hard-fought victory too, battling against the island’s unique weather system, the gruelling roads and some of the fastest asphalt drivers in the UK, the pairing kept a level head whilst others faltered to finally seal the win they had been longing for.

“That’s bloody amazing” he shouted as he arrived in Tobermory.

“I can’t believe it, I actually can’t believe it, oh my god” was as much as he could muster for a while. And who could blame him?

“I knew I had to get through it, I knew I had a minute gap, I wasn’t going to let him [James Ford] past – don’t tell him that” he continues.

“It’s been such a huge effort to get us here by so many people, firstly Aquasky and our title sponsor Viking Offshore who came and saved the day and made this happen, especially Craig [Barlow] who was the biggest part of this.

“We were in the Tob’ Hotel last year and he was like, right Gus, R5 next year; and I’m like, I can’t make that happen; I don’t have thirty grand [to compete in a top-line car]. But we got to the start, we got to the finish and here we are!”

But it wasn’t always looking like Barlow would lead the now traditional Scottish piper-led procession down Tobermory high-street on Sunday afternoon. In fact, at one point, he was over 43 seconds down on the rally leader and fellow islander John MacCrone, who had settled perfectly back into top-flight Rally2 machinery after a spell in a Ford Escort MKII.

MacCrone, from Dervaig and Dai Roberts produced a breathtaking Mull masterclass over the opening loop on Friday, going a staggering 21 seconds faster than anyone else over the Hill Road / Glen Aros test in the dark to head to bed with a comfortable lead over two-time winners Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell in their MINI JCW WRC.

Harper had a brief spell out front but was dealing with a fuel pressure issue and whilst the car was performing well enough, a stall could spell disaster as the MINI was unlikely to re-start.

Saturday was split into two legs, the opening loop of six tests in the daylight, before a short break and back out into the night with eight stages and over 63 unrelenting miles in store. And it was MacCrone who was back at it with two scratch times to kick off the day. But disaster struck on the Black Rose stage when the engine in his Fiesta Rally2 lost all power and he would fail to emerge from service.

That promoted Harper to the lead; and it was a comfortable one over Barlow, some 39 seconds in hand. In the meantime, Barlow was a model of consistency. Knowing when and where to push, he knew that biding his time reaps rewards on Mull; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

He didn’t have to wait long either. Just three stages into the final leg, Harper emerged from the end of the stage with a collapsed front wheel bearing and whilst he limped towards the next test, he was forced out on the road section, giving the Mull Rally a new leader in Barlow. A mature drive over the final loop saw the 30-year-old keep the now-chasing James Ford and Neil Shanks at bay in their Citroen C3 Rally2, to take that much longed-for rally win.

“My heart is going actually” said Barlow as he collected the Mull Rally trophy.

“It’s not real, it’s just not real. It’s going to slowly sink in, but I cant actually believe it. It’s a real boyhood dream [to win].

“Thirteen years ago, I was in the crowd, following the cars and piper down the main street, thinking I’ll be there one day; we can make it happen. Thanks to all the help we had, here we are”.

Interestingly, this was the first time the rally has seen a brand-new winner since MacCrone’s 2013 victory, with Calum Duffy, Paul MacKinnon and Daniel Harper all taking the spoils ever since.

Whilst Ford has contested Mull before, it was never in front-running machinery but a season in the Irish Tarmac Championship played dividends on this attempt, taking second overall after a largely trouble-free run.

Neil Roskell survived a late scare in his Fiesta Rally2 to take third overall and round out the podium with Andrew Roughead on the notes. A puncture hampered progress during Saturday but worse was to come when the team were forced to change the gearbox in the final service. But a swift replacement ensured they didn’t drop any time, to take an impressive result on Roskell’s second attempt at the rally.

Scott MacBeth/Hannah McKillop returned a giant-killing performance in their Mitsubishi Evo IX to take a staggering fourth overall and the Class 2 victory, whilst Jonathan Mounsey/Richard Wardle rounded out the top five in their Fiesta Rally2 and the Class 1 win.

Stephen Thompson/Larry Higton enjoyed the marker as the leading two-wheel-drive crew, taking their Ford Escort MKII to seventh overall and the Class 3 in the process. Stewart Morrison/Johnny Baird claimed Class 4 in their Escort MKII, with Des Campbell/Craig Forsyth hurling their wee Peugeot 206 around the Mull lanes to a creditable 12th overall and Class 5 win.

Tobermory’s Ally Currie and Oban’s Alex Hill sealed Class 6 with an impressive drive in their Peugeot 106, taking 21st overall and beating a huge amount of more powerful machinery in the process.

Paul Daniel/Glyn Thomas bagged the historic H3/H4/H5 Class win in their Escort MKII whilst Tony Shields/Graham Wild took H1/H2 in their Escort RS1600.

“Once again, it’s so hard to put everything into words,” said Clerk of the Course, Richard Crozier.

“Many people don’t realise just what a huge effort it is to put on such a great rally of this size, and the work that this team has done, year on year just never fails to amaze me. Sleep is overrated anyway, but it’s the smiles on everyone’s faces and the joy it brings to the island that keeps us coming back for more and doing our very best to deliver a rally to remember.

“Mull is unique. The rally is unique, there is truly nothing else quite like it and that is what makes it like a drug that we just can’t stop taking.

“The whole team and I owe a huge thank you to every volunteer and marshal who helped make the rally run so smoothly once again, they are all heroes in my eyes. And my heartfelt thanks to Beatson’s Building Supplies, John Marshall and Ross Marshall for once again sponsoring the event, as well as all the rally supporters, partners and local authorities who put in so much valuable support.

“I’ve already got some thoughts on next year’s event. Pop the 11th – 13th October 2024 in your diaries. You’re not going to want to miss this one…”

Ready to Rock!

Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally is ready to rock!

  • The Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally takes place for the 51st time this weekend [13 – 15 October]
  • New format sees the opening stages take place in daylight, before mammoth Saturday into Sunday legs
  • All competitors will offset their carbon emissions, totalling 70,000Kg CO2e
  • Two-time winners Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell lead the field in their MINI JCW WRC
  • Dervaig driver John MacCrone returns to top-flight machinery and gives an insight into the 2023 Mull Rally

It’s half a century not out for the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally, and as the iconic island motorsport weekend approaches, preparations are almost complete for the 51st edition which kicks off this Friday, ahead of three days of breathtaking closed-road action [13-15 October].

This year’s offering will see around 120 contenders assemble in Tobermory, ahead of 134 miles of some of the finest island roads in existence and the ultimate battle for the top spot and the honour of etching their names on the Mull Rally trophy.

The fight to lead the procession through Tobermory on Sunday afternoon is as unpredictable as ever with any one of the top-flight contenders capable of challenging for the win, offering fans and volunteers who have made the trip to Mull, as well as eager residents and townsfolk, a guaranteed spectacle.

Leading the field away will be two-time winners Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell in their MINI JCW WRC. Arguably Mull veterans, the pairing know exactly the ingredients required to win against the locals and the Lancashire driver will undoubtedly be up for the fight.

As will Dervaig driver and leading local hero John MacCrone, who means business with a return to top-flight Rally2 machinery and a Fiesta Rally2. Another double winner, MacCrone is eager to stand on the top step of the podium once again.

“I`m going out for a win, the trouble is, so is everyone else,” says MacCrone.

“Whether that will be the reality or not, we will find out. But we have got the right machinery and a top-class navigator in Dai Roberts so I will be giving it 100% on every single corner to try and make that possible but it won’t be easy.”

It won’t be easy at all when you look at the competition around him. Asphalt ace Neil Roskell pilots his Fiesta Rally2 with Andrew Roughead on the notes at the third seed, whilst Jonathan Mounsey and Richard Wardle also return in a similar example. It’s an all-Tobermory crew at five with Lewis Gallagher and Angus Williams’ Mitsubishi Evo IX.

An on-form James Ford brings his Citroen C3 Rally2 with Neil Shanks on the notes, whilst Tobermory driver Fergus Barlow steps into the latest spec car for the first time, nailing his flag to the mast for a maiden victory, brother Craig will co-drive and flies all the way from New Zealand to take up the other seat!

Picking a winner is a tough prospect says MacCrone.

“Daniel is on a big pace in the Mini and Neil Roskell is rallying at the sharp end of the National Asphalt championship and has put a lot of preparation into this year’s event. Throw in Lewis Gallagher, Jon Mounsey, James Ford and Fergus Barlow and we have our work cut out this year. To be honest, it’s such a hard rally to win, if you take victory on Mull, you have either been lucky or right at the top of your game.

“All of these guys will have the same idea as me, so we will need to be going hard to be in with a shout”.

Yes John, yes you will.

After Friday morning’s [October 13] shakedown at Duart Castle from 09:00, your prawn sandwich would have only just gone down before the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally gets underway from Tobermory at 14:30. The Ceremonial Start at Ledaig Car Park enjoys commentary and a Big Screen, as crews prepare to head out for two stages in daylight, followed by a service from Craignure to Salen just after 17:15, where crews will fit the light pods ahead of a further stage in darkness, before the overnight halt at Salen from 19:20.”

Saturday restarts in Tobermory at 09:20 with three stages repeated for the second leg of the event and over 53 competitive miles in store. The Duffy Skylining Mishnish Lochs double run also enjoys the now traditional big screen, beaming stage end reports and results to fans at the Isle of Mull Cheese Fanzone from 09:00. Salen will be a welcome sight from 12:45, marking a short respite ahead of leg three.

The third and final leg re-starts from Salen at 17:55, once again with commentary before the daunting night-time leg of over 63 miles and eight stages. Service is back in Craignure at 21:50 to split the evening up, with Electric Switchgear Services Achnadrish 1/2 hosting the Big Screen back at the Isle of Mull Cheese Fanzone throughout the night, starting just after 20:00.

The Ledaig Car Park in Tobermory will see the weary finishers cross the Ceremonial Finish Ramp from at 00:30 on Sunday morning. The traditional prize presentation takes place in Tobermory from 15:00. Full spectator information can be found in the event programme, available in various outlets across the island.

Island resident MacCrone thinks the new format could shake things up a bit.

“It’ll be an interesting year. The Friday afternoon start is obviously new and I think it will suit the guys that have had a bit more seat time this year than ourselves. The three or four guys around us have done a few rallies this year and the local knowledge aspect will be lessened starting in daylight. I think we need to be patient initially and feel our way into the car. Saturday night is a big leg and my thinking is if we can there or thereabouts starting the Saturday night leg, there is a lot of mileage that night to find time.

“Hopefully it’s a dry weekend not just for ourselves but the marshals and spectators. It’s nice to see the Mishnish Lochs stage running in its old format and maybe get a crack at the stage record if that’s the case. I’ve got a bet on with my pal that we will try for it if it’s dry, which should be a lot of fun!”

Fun it will be, but there is a serious side to the event, as it strives to mitigate its environmental impact. Thanks to a continued partnership with Carbon Positive Motorsport, the Mull Rally will see a significant uplift in its long-term ecological roadmap, by ensuring that all competitors in this year’s event will offset their carbon emissions.

It will offset more than 70,000Kg CO2e, which is more than most other stage rally events in the world, reinforcing its pledge to be one of the leading events for commitment to sustainability and longevity. This is coupled with several environmental champions who will help spread the positive message for change within the sport’s networks.

Clerk of the Course, Richard Crozier and his team have been planning this year’s event for over 12 months and is excited to finally see it come to fruition.

“It’s been a challenging few weeks with the weather and logistics but with true Scottish grit and determination, everyone has got stuck in and ensured we are on track to deliver yet another sensational Mull Rally that everyone has come to love.

“It’s a new format this year which changes the dynamics a little but it’s the same epic challenge it always was and we can’t wait to see everyone landing on the island to prepare for the weekend ahead. Our extended thanks must go to John Marshall of Beatson’s Building Supplies for his continued support of the rally and of course to all our partners who helped make the event happen.

“Now it’s our turn to deliver a Mull Rally to remember.”

Black Rose

 Susan Cameron

Stages 6 & 9 on this year’s Beatsons Building Supplies Mull Rally will be renamed “Black Rose” in memory of Susan Cameron, who lost her life 20 years ago on the island.  The black rose is a symbol used by Susan’s family and friends by which to remember her.

Friends of Susan, Scottish Rallying couple Tom & Sue Hynd will compete on the rally this year and their Peugeot 205 will be adorned with a black rose on the car as a mark of respect.

2023 Tunnock’s Teacake Eating Contest

Tunnock’s have generously supplied lots of their delicious Teacakes for our annual Teacake eating contest, and MacGochans have again agreed to host the event at 2130 hrs. on Thursday 12th October.

The competition is for each competitor to eat as many Tunnock’s Teacakes as they can in four minutes, followed by a can of Barr’s Irn-Bru within a further minute.   Each competitor will have one ‘unwrapper’ who is allowed to unwrap one Teacake while waiting for the competitor to finish the previous biscuit.  Each competitor must agree to publicity photographs being taken, no matter how disgusting they look!  Both the competitor and the unwrapper must be over 18 years old and have a connection with the rally. Liking Tunnock’s Teacakes and Barr’s Irn-Bru would be an obvious advantage!

For a chance of entering, send the following details to no later than 2200 hrs. on Wednesday 11th October 2023.

Your name, your mobile number and your connection with the rally (Competitor, marshal, service crew, etc.) and stating that you are over 18 years of age.

The name of your ‘unwrapper’, their mobile number and connection with the rally and stating that they are over 18 years of age.

Failure to provide all the above is instant exclusion!

A ballot will be held if we receive more entries than can be accommodated, and successful competitors will be contacted by 1500 hrs. on Thursday afternoon. 

Successful entrants must be OUTSIDE the front door of MacGochans no later than 2115 hrs. on Thursday evening.  Any entrants not there by that time will be excluded and their place given to someone else.

Spectators and supporters are very welcome but they must not enter the competition area before 2130 hrs. because we need to set up the room with tables, chairs, Tunnock’s Teacakes and Barr’s Irn-Bru, and, if thought necessary, mops and buckets!

2023 Challengers

Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally reveals 2023 challengers

  • The Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally releases its entry list for the 13 – 15 October event
  • Local heroes set to battle with returning regulars for the coveted victory
  • Two-time winners Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell lead the field in their MINI JCW WRC
  • Dervaig’s John MacCrone returns to four-wheel-drive in a bid for a third victory

The most anticipated entry list of the UK rallying season has been revealed as the Beaton’s Building Supplies Mull Rally unveils its list of contenders for the highly regarded 13-15 October event.

The 51st running of the unique island event will see a lively mix of local heroes and visiting hopefuls, all eager to scribe their names on the coveted Mull Rally trophy which dates back to 1969.

With number one on the doors, 2002 and 2021 winners Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell lead the field of 125 crews away from Tobermory on Friday 13th October, as the pairing return to the island behind the wheel of their crowd-pleasing MINI JCW WRC. The Barley driver also finished second to Paul MacKinnon last year, losing out by less than 10 seconds, so is arguably the pre-event favourite.

But local ace John MacCrone steps back into four-wheel-drive machinery and a Fiesta Rally2 after a brief spell in an Escort. The Dervaig pilot has enlisted the help of British Rally Championship co-driver Dai Roberts, and as well as winning overall in 2013 and 2016, was on-course for a hattrick in 2021 before turbo failure ruled him out.

National asphalt championship runner-up Neil Roskell returns for another shot after taking sixth on his Mull debut last year. He pilots his Fiesta Rally2 with Andrew Roughead on the notes. Jonathan Mounsey and Richard Wardle also return in their Fiesta Rally2 whilst the all-Tobermory crew of Lewis Gallagher and Angus Williams break up the Rally2 machinery with their Mitsubishi Evo IX.

Irish championship front-runner James Ford brings his Citroen C3 Rally2 to the island with Neil Shanks alongside. Ford’s last expedition to Mull was in 2019 but ended in retirement so the Preston driver will be looking for a much better outcome this time around.

Star of the BBC programme Island Crossing, Fergus Barlow has raised the bar in 2023 as he steps into top-flight machinery for the first time, the Tobermory man electing to use a Ford Fiesta Rally2 this year. After his 2022 attempt ended with turbo issues on his Subaru Impreza, along with his brother Craig he will be eying a top result and better their fourth place of 2021.

The list is awash with talented hopefuls, with Oban’s Stephen Thompson heading up the two-wheel-drive charge in his Ford Escort MK2 whilst Welshman Will Rowlands is back for another Historic Class H3 shot for glory.

Clerk of the Course Richard Crozier believes this could be one of the most unpredictable Mull Rally to date.

“It’s a dynamic top ten and a very interesting entry list as a whole this year and I think that will make it even more unpredictable if you are trying to pick a winner from that lot” he says.

“It’s no secret that we are missing the likes of Paul MacKinnon and Calum Duffy, but it’s a top-quality lineup nonetheless with the local experts likely to be challenged by the visitors, many of which are on top form after strong seasons in their respective championships”.

“Many want to come to Mull for the challenge, the experience, the island hospitality and the craic; we are sure they will get it all this year as usual”.