History of Rallying on the Isle of Mull

In 1968, while on a family holiday at Glengorm Castle near Tobermory, the late Brian Molyneux had the brilliant idea of holding a Road Rally on the Island. Organising a Rally has been described as holding a football match in someone else’s back garden, but it was an extremely ambitious idea when the large garden that is Mull, is over three hundred miles north of Brian’s base in Lancashire, and this was long before the M6 and M74 existed to assist travel from England across the border.
At this time, Brian was Chairman of the Mullard Motor Cycle and Car Club in Blackburn, which became known as the 2300 Club as a more manageable title. The change of title came from taking the initial Club letters, M.M.C.C.C, translating them into Roman numerals, which becomes 2300.
He successfully sold the idea of the Tour of Mull to his fellow committee members, partly because rallying in the North of England was beset with Public Relations issues at that time. It was a brave move, as I can only think of one person on Mull at that time with any interest in the sport, but Brian and his team put a huge effort into convincing the Islanders that this was a good idea and the first Tour of Mull was planned for 18th October 1969.

1969 The one night event started in Tobermory at 10.30pm,with the cars flagged off by Tobermory Provost, and rally supporter, Bobby MacLeod, of the Mishnish Hotel. There were 72 entries, of which 57 started. The communications centre was the telephone kiosk at Gruline cross roads, Aros 33X, where Brian spent many hours. The new road through Glen More had recently opened, but the old road was used as a selective, as was the Craignure / Salen/ Tobermory A 848. These were only used for a few years as the selectives there were being `cleaned’ by leading crews.

Entry List 1969

Photo credit: Tom Coffield

1970 Forestry stages were introduced on the Saturday afternoon, in Fishnish, Lettermore, and Dervaig. The use of a field was required as a link road in Lettermore. While the format was highly popular with spectators, some of the crews more used to tarmac surfaces were not so keen.
The first Mull entrants were John MacKay and Neil MacLean in John’s Mini Cooper, finishing 17th.

1971 Roger Clark entered, but a mechanic transporting the Escort north was involved in a road accident near Oban, which badly damaged the car. It would have been very interesting to see the master of the day in action. John MacKay and Neil MacLean finished 11th, John, who was always extremely quick over the Mishnish Lochs, would go on to change seat, and become winner in 1980 and 1981 with Neil MacKinnon. Iain Campbellspectated on his first Rally, aged five months.

1972 The Event became a round of the Scottish championship for three years from 1972 until 1974.
Regular international competitors Rosemary Smith and Pauline Gullick were 4th overall. I believe this is still the highest overall result by an all female crew.
An `International’ Team award was presented by the late John MacKechnie,and won by the Scots, despite their unfamiliarity with Tarmac Rallying.

1973 Ian Grindrod joined the scrutineering team. Chris and David Baker of Dervaig began the first of many years competing in their green Ford Anglia van.
Lettermore and Fishnish forest stages were also used at nightand the entry list had moved up to 120.

1974 Jimmy McRae entered, was seeded 16th in an Escort, finishing 8th. Neil and Donald MacKinnon were 12th. In these days the side loading ferry, Columba, struggled to cope with the volumes of traffic and ran hours late, with competitors sometimes having difficulty getting to the start in time. Columba is now the luxury cruise ship Hebridean Princess.

1975 The first Scottish winners were Ian Gemmell and FrewBryden in the immaculate Macconnochies of Kilmarnock Avenger. Ian Grindrod recorded his first finish at 14thwith Derek Ormerod, just behind Brian Harper of Minisport.
John Horton was navigating for Rupert Saunders, editor of Rally Sport magazine, in a Mini, which fell into a large, butfull, culvert on the first corner of the first forest stage. They then spent the weekend in the Bellachroy, Mishnish and MacDonald Arms as, allegedly, the TobermoryChemists shop was closed and they had to seek alternative medication.

1976 Was won again by Scots, Willie Crawford and Roger Turnbull in the Lothian Sports Cars Escort. Having been beautifully restored by Ronald Dunsmore, this same car is Car O for 2012, driven by Ronald accompanied by former local competitor Fred MacLean.

1977 Bob Bean won, despite finishing with a plastic tube and funnel for an intercom, and timber holding up the back axle. Neil and Donald MacKinnon were 3rd, in an Escort RS2000, recording times on the `Long one’ which made the Organisers blink, signs of things to come.

1978 Brother Alastair and Campbell Roy won 1978, and also79 in their Sunbeam despite starting the night section in 38th following a fairly big `off’. Chris Paton and Jim Kerr beat many much more powerful cars in their Mini Cooper in 8th. Chris has been a great supporter of Mull for a very long time.

1979 A route change caused consternation among some crews who did not check their Road Books and assumed the `usual’ route, only to find what they thought was the start of stage one was actually the finish of stage two. Similar panics remain a feature of the event!
A computerised results service was used for the first time, using a main frame computer in Croydon, successfully.
Competitors James Gilzean and Karen Miller were married in Tobermory on the Thursday, and started in their Mini, car 90, on the Saturday, but retired on the afternoon section, reason unknown.

1980 Neil MacKinnon and John MacKay accomplished what had been predicted for several years, first overall in torrential rain, by four seconds from Mike Pattison and David Taylor.
The first Duart Trophy was presented to Eddie O’Donnell senior for services to the Rally. We can believe the late Brian’s description `rotund’ but not so sure about the `cherubic’!
Neil Molneux won the first Beer Rally, beating his brother Clive into third, much to the consternation of their parents. Clive later went on to become Clerk of the Course for ten years from 2000 until 2009.

1981 Friday night rallying began for the first time, and the Tobermory to Salen road would no longer be used competitively.
A one way Rally traffic system was introduced in Tobermory in an attempt to ease congestion, entering the Town via Back Brae and leaving by Eas Brae.
Seventeen year old Andy Knight was asked for his birth certificate at scrutineering. He started at number 114, and finished a very creditable 43rd, already showing signs of things to come.
Andrew Kellitt appeared alongside John Easson, finishing 8th.
The Tour of Mull Rally won the BTRDA trophy for the Rally of the Year.

1982 Minisport became the sponsors on Mull, and established close relationship with the schools on the Island. The issue of using slick tyres which are not road legal was raised by the Police, but a wet weekend solved the problem.
Andy Knight was 9th from a start position of 73.Ian Grindrod actually finished the Rally again.

1983 Eddie O’Donnell junior competed in his first Rally, aged seventeen, and guided by `Senior’, they finished 38th and won the Alexander MacLean Trophy for the best Mull Crew.
Jimmy McRae and Ian Grindrod entered but unfortunately did not start, that would have been very interesting given Jim and Ian’s tarmac reputation in Ireland.

1984 Changes in regulations meant that stage rally cars became ineligible for road rallying, which resulted in entries reduced to 84. The Eddies were 14th in Junior’s second rally.

1985 The event’s relationship with the Island schools developed, with Neil Molyneux spending Rally week visiting all the Island schools. Neil had previously competed once with Paul `the hat’ Tattersleyin Paul’s Mini, but they rolled it in the lead up to the Rally, then had an argument with a tree one mile into the first stage.
A Raynet repeater site on Ulva failed, so messages from Dervaig to Torloisk were routed through a radio ham in Hong Kong.

1986 Caledonian MacBrayne operated the Lochaline ferry for the first time on Sunday, easing the problem of pressure on the Craignure ferry services, but reducing the Sunday night socialising.
Andrew Kellitt navigated Mike Pattison to victory. Andrew has agreed to join the 2012 Organising team as Assistant Clerk of the Course, and brings enormous organisational experience to the event.
Iain Noble, who has assisted innumerable crews in John MacKay’s garage over the years, took 34th and the Mull trophies.

1987 New regulations for road rallying were announced for 1988 which indicated that events such as Mull would not be able to continue. As a result 250 entries were received and almost 120 started.
Bob Bean missed the last ferry from Lochaline and is said to have rowed across the Sound of Mull to get to the start. Where he acquired the boat is not known. His rally ended early on Friday night, but his efforts were rewarded with the Spirit of the Rally award.

1988 As a permit to run the Tour of Mull as a road rally could no longer be obtained, the only option available to the Organisers was to apply for Closed Roads status, which required an Act of Parliament.
This was complicated and expensive but with a great deal of determination from the Club, the Act was passed on 27th March 1990.
As a stop gap a Stage Rally was run in 1988 using forest and estate roads, as well as some of the old Glen More road. A reasonable number of entries were received, but atrocious weather meant that many competitors, marshals and spectators (including the 2012 Clerk of the Course)were stranded on piers in Oban and Lochaline for many hours. A first Welsh victory was recorded by Ceiriog Hughes in his Escort.

1989 2300 Club concentrated on obtaining the Closed Road Act but another stage rally was organised by the fairly new Mull Car Club, with assistance from Highland Car Club, which quickly became known as the `Wee Mull.’

1990 Closed roads were approved in March, after a hectic seven months the first closed road rally in the UK was held on Mull. The forest stages were largely replaced by daylight stages over the roads of North Mull, which proved popular with both spectators and competitors. 170 miles of stages were on offer, and a full entry of 150 started. Andy Knight won in a Nova.
1991 Was won again by Andy Knight and Mike Corner in a Nova, from Neil MacKinnon and Mike Stayte, a partnership which would go on to achieve multiple wins. James MacGillivray and Brian Kennedy were 4th. George Hill and Keith Wood came back to Mull 20 years after their hat trick of wins, finishing 25th.Fishnish forest stages were used for the last time
Sixteen year old Calum Duffy navigated for Kenny Livingstone

1992 Mark and Tony Wagstaff won the event in their Astra, after a controlled drive, which resulted in an excellent and entertaining video, albeit with some dodgy language!
John Price had featured strongly in the Metro but retired with engine failure. Andy Knight started with a high profile world champion co-driver, Robert Reid. They led from the start, but did not finish, going OTL after an `off’ on Mishnish Lochs.
Andy Horne and Andy Jardine (2012 Deputy Clerk of the Course) started in an ex works Opel Manta 400 but their Rally came to a very abrupt halt after a collision with a huge rock on the third stage at Gribun, near to the now washed away bridge at Dishaig. Andy Jardine broke a finger, but the fact there were no more serious injuries bear testament to the strength of the car.
Calum and his father, Hugh Duffy, in a four door red Escort Mk 2, were 10th on Calum’s first event as a driver, which includes some lurid spins on the Achnadrish hairpins.

1993 Neil MacKinnon and Mike Stayte took their first of five consecutive wins in an Escort Cosworth.

1994 Calum Duffy and his dad, Hugh, finished fourth in their Mk 2 Escort, behind Neil, Mike Pattison and James MacGillivray.

1995 Neil MacKinnon and Mike Stayte completed their second hat trick of wins. Donald Brown and Fred MacLean, regular local competitors, recorded their best result at eighth. Donald’s children haveall co-driven for Dad, and the next generation is now taking over. Mum, Wendy, is Entries Secretary for 2012 and the family do a great deal of work for the event behind the scenes. Fred accompanies Ronald Dunsmore in car O this year. Fred’s co-driver from 2003 is now Mrs MacLean.
Calum and Hugh Duffy won the `best entertainers’ award.

1996 After leading on Friday night in pouring rain, oil cooler problems put Calum Duffy out. Despite clutch problems Neil MacKinnon won from Chris Griffiths, John Price was 3rd in the Metro.
John was a regular competitor for many years, and although he often led the Rally in very powerful cars, Lady Luck always seemed to snatch the victory away from him.
Chris Griffiths was second for the first of three consecutive years, before taking the number one spot in 1999.
Brian Molyneux attended the event although in very poor health, sadly he died on 6th December.
It was a source of great pleasure to him that all his family became involved in the Rally.
As Organisers, we hope we can remain true to his vision all these years ago. The cairn erected in his memory is situated on a knoll above the Dervaig hairpin, overlooking the village, the Islands of Coll and Tiree. It is a beautiful spot to visit.

1997 The Eddies came to the podium a well deserved third. Dougie Hall was fourth and John Price fifth. Willie Paterson was the best entertainer in a wee Diahatshu which was about the width of a pram. There are unconfirmed stories about the Paterson team racing down EasBrae early on Sunday morning on Distillery trolleys

1998 Calum Duffy and dad, Hugh, had their first, much deserved win, in the Escort Mk 2. Calum’s winner’s speech included:
`A historic day has come upon us
Someone has won in a twenty year old bus
A bit battered and rough, black and white
But I think you’ll agree, it drifts just right’
Chris Griffiths and Aled Davies were 2nd, from John Price in the Metro and the Eddies in 4th.

1999 The Tobermory stage which started outside the MacDonald Arms, used the town clock as a chicane, went up the Back Brae, and finished at the Glengorm crossroads, was introduced to celebrate the 30th Tour of Mull. It was a hard slog in a wee 1300cc Nova.
Chris Griffiths and Aled Davies, who had always been fiercely competitive, won from Dougie Hall, also always very competitive but who rarely had luck on his side.
George Hill, the first winner in 1969 came back out, but retired in Glen Aros.
Dougie Hall established a new Scridain record on Saturday afternoon.
In the beautiful sunny and dry conditions,Iain Campbell reckoned he was 20seconds per stage quicker that the previous year, but was twenty places further down the leader board because of the conditions. Despite the dry conditions, the crew nearly got their feet wet when a ball joint broke on the wee Nova on Mishnish Lochs on Saturday afternoon.
The O’Donnells rolled into the water at Gribun rocks but were unhurt. The Escort did not come off so well.

2000 In very wet conditions Calum and Hugh Duffy won in an Evo V1, first time out in four wheel drive, from Neil MacKinnon’s Impreza, by 28 seconds. Andy Knight was back out with Graeme Noble, finishing 3rd to complete the first local podium.
Chris Paton and Dave Cabena competed in their 30th `Mull’ together, finishing 29th.

2001 Neil MacKinnon recorded his tenth overall win, from John Cope and Tony Cope. Calum Duffy was back in an Escort Mk 2 and accompanied by his brother Iain for the first time,but retired with mechanical problems.
Eddie O’Donnell was out in a left hand drive, four door Escort, but also retired.
Richard and Pat Egger had managed to squeeze a two litre engine into their Nova to finish 65th.
Andy Knight’s wife, Naomi, and Rebecca Paterson competed for the first time in a Peugeot 106 to finish in a very creditable 59th..

2002 Daniel Harper in a Lancer, in his second outing in a four wheel car, won from Neil MacKinnon and Calum Duffy in very wet conditions. He established a record 20m 43 seconds on the long one on his way to victory.

2003 Susan Cameron, competing with her husband Duncan, was fatally injured when their Peugeot left the road above Kilbrennan, near Torloisk, early in the event. It was Duncan’s wish that the Rally continue on the Saturday, which it did. There is a lovely memorial to Susan on a hillock above Kilbrennan.

2004 Duncan Cameron bravely came back to compete with Andy Bull in a Peugeot, and finished 30th. Calum and Iain Duffy won from James MacGillivray and Iain Fraser, and the Cope brothers.
For the first time, the rally visited the Ross of Mull where short stages were run at Ardtun.

2005 Tunnocks took over sponsorship of the rally, and began the very popular provision of hot scotch pies at the finish. The company have been great supporters since 2005 and continue as the event sponsor. Director Fergus Louden has been a regular competitor for many years.
Bear Cub Rallysport was established in Dervaig by Steve Davies and Alex Duncan, involving a group of local youngsters in preparing a Vauxhall Corsa for rallying. The group were taught car preparation, the use of pace notes, time cards, road book etc, and were responsible for raising funds to complete the project. The crew were nominated by their peers by ballot. Heather MacCrone ,18, was the driver, having passed her driving test and BARS test in July . Her co-driver was her brother John,16.
They retired from the main event with mechanical problems but finished 13th in the Trophy Rally. John’s current progress in the sport has proved what an excellent project this has been.
The Tunnock’s Tea Cake eating competition had now been established. The winner was Gerhart Swart, restaurant manager at the Isle of Mull Hotel, who ate 22 of them. His prize – a weekend for two at the Isle of Mull Hotel!
The winners were James MacGillivray and Ian Fraser,both of whomhad already been on the podium several timesover the years, from John and Tony Cope, and Denis Biggerstaff and Graham Thomson. Denisrated the event in his top three favourites after Donegal and Killarney, urging Ireland’s top drivers to take up the challenge. Unfortunately, this has not really happened.

2006 Heather MacCrone was back in action in the Bear Cubs Corsa, accompanied by Sarah Jayne Daly, finishing 55th. Paul MacKinnon competed for the first time in an Evo VI with Kirsty Riddock, but engine problems on the Saturday afternoon put them out.
A new car to the event was James MacGillivray’snew Escort Mk 2 which was immaculately prepared by former competitor Roy Jarvis of Ralloy. Unfortunately the car did not look quite so good on Saturday afternoon after a tyre came off at Newdale, near the end of the Mishnish Lochs stage.
Cameron MacLean and Alastair Fraser made it into the top ten at 9th, just ahead of the young Tristan Pye. Dougie Hall ran out of luck again with engine failure. During rally week Dougie cycled the length of the `long one’ in 1hour 7 min 33sec, average speed 19.94mph, to raise funds for the Bear Cubs project.

2007 Neil MacKinnon and Daniel Barritt recorded Neil’s 12th outright win, an amazing record established over 27 years. Son Paul was only 15 seconds behind early in the event but mechanical problems ended his challenge.
Minisports had an excellent weekend, Daniel Harper finishing fourth and team mate John Cressay eighth.
EwenMacGillivray won class A with Andrew Falconer.Ewen then went on to co-drive Paul MacKinnon to victory in 2011, while Andrew has co-driven Tristan Pye to 6th in 2009 and 2010, then 4rth in 2011.

2008 Paul MacKinnon took his first win, by nine seconds from Calum Duffy after an epic battle all weekend. Neil MacKinnon retired with engine problems. Ian OggMacKenzie was tenth in a Peugeot 107, the Bear Club Corsa of John and Peter MacCrone 13th collecting the best entertainer award
Chris Paton and Dave Cabena were 39th on their 38th Mull Rally as a team.

2009 The Tobermory stages were back, to celebrate the 40th Tour of Mull, this time including a difficult chicane beside Clydesdale Bank.
Neil MacKinnon had a very uncharacteristic high speed accident in GlenAros, although the crew escaped without any serious injuries. Paul also went off, and retired later in the event.
Calum and Iain Duffy won, having been 24th after Friday night, from James MacGillivray also in an Escort, followed by Daniel Harper’s MINI. An all two wheel drive podium.
Dave Cabena completed all 40 Tours of Mull, before moving on to race historic Alpha Romeos
After 40 years of organising the Tour of Mull from their base in Lancashire, 2300 Club called it a day.
Their dedication over the years to the Tour of Mull was enormous. I wonder how many million miles were covered, and how many thousand hours of their time were taken up by Mull. The organisers of the 2012 rally are delighted to welcome former Clerk of the Course, Clive Molyneux, as a Club Steward for this year.

2010 Organisation of Mull Rally was taken on by Mull Car Club, led by Steve Davies as Clerk of the Course. For once Mull enjoyed sunshine in October, and 115 crews started the rally. Due to the dry conditions many stage records were shattered, and the Glen Aros / Hill Road stage bogey time was broken. John MacCrone retired with mechanical problems on stage two. Calum Duffy won from Paul MacKinnon,and for once, over fourteen minutes separated the top ten.
Dougie Hall’s cycle trip for the Bear Cubs recorded a time of 62min,46 sec breaking the 20mph barrier.

2011 Stages at Bunessan and Ardtun were introduced on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
The Chief Medical Officer’s Land Rover Defender lost a wheel at Pennyghael, meaning Dr Ben had to strip off and wade into Loch Scridain to retrieve it.
John Bird won the Tunnocks Teacake eating competition by scoffing 32 of them, the mind boggles!
Paul MacKinnon won in a MacKinstry Subaru WRC, from James MacGillivray, Daniel Harper, Tristan Pye, and Eddie O’Donnell, who had the frightening experience of having no brakes coming down the Calgary Steps on the last stage.
Allan Cameron and Angus Williams finished 31st in the Impreza. Allan is chairman of Mull Car Club and works tirelessly for the Rally. He has been a regular competitor since 1971 when he competed in an Escort Mexico with Ronnie Kennedy.

2012 There were a few new faces in the organising team, led by new Clerk of the Course, Iain Campbell, although almost all of them have competed on Mull, and they were ably assisted by a huge number of marshals and officials who have supported the rally for many years.
Flash floods near Gribun washed away three bridges in August, and the road only reopened to traffic reopened shortly before the Rally. Unsurfaced, and using a temporary bridge created a new natural chicane.
Leg one on Friday night was so wet, Calum Duffy used a full set of wet tyres for the first time on Mull. James MacGillivray’s rally lasted only a few yards into the opening Mishnish Lochs before electrical problems meant retirement. The team then took on the role of car 0 on Saturday with no further problems.
Improved weather for the remainder of the weekend meant a fast a furious pace.
The event finish was in Dervaig for the first time, appropriately, as the Duffy brothers in their Escort
were first , with John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon second in their Fiesta to create a Dervaig one two.

2013 The weekend was uncharacteristically dry and sunny, with a touch of frost overnight. Two unusual course cars appeared this year. 00 was the Audi Quattro S1 of Brian Watson, and 0 was the Ford Anglia of Alan MacKay with the car resplendent in full Tunnocks Teacake livery.
The Duffy brothers established the lead right away in the Escort, followed by John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon in a development Fiesta from M Sport. However, Calum Duffy spun on the short Artun stage and damaged the alternator, McCrone taking the lead and retaining it throughout the weekend.
On Saturday afternoon Peter Taylor in the Focus set some extremely fast times despite having limited knowledge of the Mull stages, even beating the bogey in Gribun by two seconds. He went on to finish second overall, overcoming various problems on Saturday night
The closest battle of the event was for third between Eddie O’Donnell and Tony Bardy with positions swapping between the two. Eventually Eddie claimed third by seven seconds after over 157 stage miles.
Unusually, John MacCrone and Eddie O Donnell were the only locals in the top ten.

2014 The final year of Tunnock’s title sponsorship saw John MacCrone and Tunnock’s own Stuart Loudon return as Car 1 in the M-Sport’s development 1.6-litre front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta R200. A touch underpowered compared to the frontrunning opposition, they nonetheless turned in a heroic performance, running 3rd overall at final service, only to be denied by a final-stage driveshaft failure on The Long One, denied a warm hometown reception at the finish in Dervaig. That was reserved for the victorious Duffy brothers, with Calum sealing his eighth win on the event. It had been far from a lights-to-flag win however – James MacGillivray and Ian Fraser held a slender lead after the Friday night, before the Duffy brothers nudged ahead early Saturday afternoon, only for MacGillivray/Fraser to end their event off the road on Penmore two stages later. With MacCrone’s demise, a 7-minute deficit had turned into an excellent Class B win and 7th overall for twenty-one year old Fergus Barlow of Tobermory and Alasdair MacCrone in their Fiesta R2, on Fergus’s fifth event. The itinerary included a Friday evening Tobermory service and Main Street regroup; the final running of Glen Aros on its own, which despite the addition of four chicanes, still saw the bogey beaten by MacGillivray, Duffy and MacCrone; and the return of the Tobermory town stage, to celebrate the 45th running – this time kicking off the Saturday evening rather than Friday, and with a haybale chicane in front of the famous clock tower, rather than competitors having to negotiate around it.
2015 This year saw a new title sponsor, in Alloa-based Beatson’s Building Supplies, with a new five-year deal. Ross Marshall, Director of Beatson’s Building Supplies said “We’ve always wanted to put more back into Scottish motorsport, and the opportunity to become title sponsor of the Mull Rally was one we couldn’t ignore”. 2015 will however be remembered for other reasons – Dervaig resident Andy Mort, co-driving for Car 2 John MacCrone, was fatally injured on the second stage of Saturday afternoon, Loch Kinloch. A memorial bench now resides nearby in his honour. The rally was duly halted, with Calum & Iain Duffy declared the winners of the abridged event in a Subaru Impreza 555, but at the Mort family’s request, the Sunday afternoon parade still took place – the pipers silenced, it was a quiet and mournful affair.
2016 The event returned with an identical itinerary to that of the 2015, save for an abridged Gribun Rocks test, now known as Ben More, shaving 8 stages mile from the event, down to 150 in total – a visit by the Motor Sports Association in the aftermath of the previous year’s incident, had deemed the rocks section to be unsuitable for modern rallying, particularly following incidents involving nearby water elsewhere within the UK. The contest itself was one of the most frenetic for many years, with a titanic battle between two of Dervaig’s finest – John MacCrone and Stuart Loudon, returning to M-Sport four-wheel-drive machinery with the Fiesta R5, led from start to finish, but were chased throughout by the Duffy brothers. John held a 53 second lead midway through Saturday afternoon, only for Calum to go on a charge, winning the final seven stages, but John had done enough to cling on, claiming an emotional victory by all of 10 seconds – dedicated to Andy Mort. Such was the pace of these two crews, that they finished a full eight minutes clear of the rest of the field. Northern Ireland’s Derek McGeehan in Mini WRC was best of the rest, claiming his maiden podium at the third attempt after two frustrating mechanical non-finishes. Five-time Scottish Rally Champion David Bogie made his long-awaited Mull debut in a Ford Escort Mk2, climbing to 4th before an off on The Long One on the final night – he would go on to finish 3rd on both of his next attempts, in 2019 and 2021.
2017-2018 An unexpected hiatus. In June, the rally as we had come to know it, was abruptly cancelled – it had been found that the existing closed road legislation raised very significant insurance challenges, first thought to render the Mull Rally uninsurable. Motorsport Sports Association chief Rob Jones explained: “The MSA has been endeavouring to find a solution with its brokers. Whilst the brokers have offered a potential solution for 2017, this is unfortunately totally impractical as each and every claim under the policy would be subject to a very significant excess payable by the organisers, and one which the organisers cannot afford.” Consequently the Mull Rally was unable to run as a closed road event for two years, and forced to wait until new enabling legislation, ultimately came on stream in 2019. Undeterred, Deputy Clerk of the Course Duncan Brown and team invoked what they called the “Spirit of ’88” – with many competitors, marshals and spectators having their boats and accommodation for rally week booked anyway, an event was put together at short notice under the growing grassroots Targa and Historic Road Rally format – utilising forest tracks and private land to a mix of special tests and regularity sections – as well as a gravel Rally Time Trial for stage rally cars on the new Mornish timber road, before a new ceilidh on the Saturday evening. Andy Beaumont/Andrew Fish in a Sunbeam Rapier claimed the honours in the Targa/Historic Road Rally, Reay Mackay/Keir Beaton in a Focus WRC winning the Rally Time Trial. Meanwhile, future Clerk of the Course Richard Crozier served notice of intent, with victory in the Tunnock’s Teacake eating contest, scoffing seventeen of Uddingston’s tastiest in four minutes. This “placeholder” was successfully repeated in 2018, with the young crew of Bevan Blacker/Abi Ruddock in their Peugeot 106 winning the Targa – the success of which has gone on to spawn its own event in March, in the Mull Classic Rally – and John Rintoul/Yvonne Armour in a Skoda Fabia S2500 winning at Mornish. It was becoming evident, though, that the majority were growing restless for the return of the “real rally”. They wouldn’t have long to wait…
2019 In April, after many years of campaigning and negotiation, the ink was finally set on the Motor Sport on Public Road (Scotland) Regulations – enabling closed road motorsport not just on Mull and in Berwickshire, but across the whole of Scotland. With it, the insurance challenges of the previous two years were now a thing of the past, and the competition could recommence on the famed Hebridean asphalt. The 50th anniversary of rallying on Mull, and with it a new golden logo and strapline – “Pure Gold Matured” – proved a fitting celebratory milestone for the return. The successful 2016 route was again wheeled out, save the dropping of the southern Ardtun test to make things easier for the marshals. Paul MacKinnon and Paul Beaton led throughout in their Fiesta R5, to take a 1m41s win from the Mini WRC of Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell. John MacCrone returned to two-wheel drive to run at Car 1 in a Ford Escort Mk2, finishing the opening night in third, but a heavy landing on the final test of the night had jarred his spine, forcing him to reluctantly withdraw. Event sponsor John Marshall of Beatson’s Building Supplies returned his maiden top-10 finish in 9th overall, and at the prizegiving was delighted to announce a five year extension of the company’s support for the event.
2020 No sooner than the Mull Rally had overcome one show-stopping hurdle, in the insurance challenges, than it encountered its next. In March, a respiratory virus that had started in China in December 2019, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, and within a fortnight the United Kingdom was placed into a “lockdown” to contain the spread of the disease. Island communities were considered to be especially vulnerable, and with months of ongoing uncertainty and changing restrictions, in July the inevitable happened, and the Mull Rally was once again on ice for the third time in four years. This paled into insignificance versus the bigger picture of saving lives – as the UK, and the wider world, slowly got on top of tackling the virus.
2021 With the opportunities and greater flexibility now afforded by the new 2019 legislation, Clerk of the Course Andy Jardine and Deputy Duncan Brown led a community consultation – as required by the new rules – during December 2020, proposing a 124-mile route in a more modern format, with longer road closure periods, and just 15% running in darkness. Feedback from the island community, but also a vocal sceptical off-island cohort, was largely not in favour, and the known 2015-2019 route concept was brought in from the substitute bench. Concurrently, with the uncertainties of the pandemic, as an eminently suitable late-season rally, the event had been inscribed as a reserve round of the British Rally Championship. With the opening three rounds all falling to the pandemic, the inevitable soon happened – for the first time in its 50+ year history, Mull would be an event of British Championship status. In May, Motorsport UK and SportScotland announced the return of rallying in Scotland, and come July, as the UK steadily vaccinated its way past the worst of COVID-19, Mull was full steam ahead. In the end, 16 BRC crews joined the fray, but only two drivers from the top BRC1 class – title protagonists Matt Edwards and Osian Pryce both making their event debuts. They would endure mixed fortunes – Edwards crashing less than half a mile from the start of the event, at the Tobermory waterworks bend, before turning in an epic recovery drive, with eight stage wins – including a stage record on The Long One – climbing from 143rd to 5th by the finish, and 2nd BRC, en route to the title. Pryce meanwhile was forced into delivering a measured drive, without need to display his true pace – 2nd overall and a comfortable BRC event win. In amongst it all, it was one of the crews more familiar to the island, who claimed the spoils – Daniel Harper and Chris Campbell ended a 19 year wait for their second Mull victory, adding to their 2002 laurels. In an unusual occurrence, it would be a podium without a Muileach presence for the first time since 1999 – John MacCrone and Paul MacKinnon had led the field after the Friday night, with James MacGillivray not far behind in 7th, before all three hit trouble midway through Saturday afternoon, and this year also saw a rare no-show from Calum Duffy. And so, after five years away, it was left to Tobermory’s Fergus Barlow, making his four-wheel-drive in a Subaru Impreza, to uphold local honours and take an impressive 4th overall. Junior BRC contenders Will Creighton and Finlay Retson were among the leading two-wheel drive crews, and both enjoyed “calendar” finish positions in their Fiesta Rally4s, in 8th and 11th overall.