25 Mar: Mull Hire Classic Rally

Mull Hire Classic Rally, Saturday 14th March 2020.

Andy Beaumont and Andrew Fish won what was probably the last rally to be run on British soil for some time when they won the recent Mull Hire Classic Rally on the Isle of Mull. Using their 48 year old Sunbeam Rapier H120, the north east of England crew repeated their victory on the inaugural 2017 Mull Classic Rally which they won back then by 39 seconds. This time their winning margin was much closer, just 23 seconds, on an event which included 14 Timed Tests and 3 ‘Regularity’ sections.

The runners-up were in fact the best ‘local’ crew with Fraser Hughes from Conon Bridge and Peter MacInnes from Fortrose taking second place in their Mazda MX5. They were actually the fastest crew through the Timed Tests, but lost out to the more experienced Beaumont and Fisher on the Regularities.

Perhaps they might have done better had they acted a bit more sensibly. Just as they did on the 2018 event, Fraser and Peter contested the whole rally with the top down. And it rained all day. That meant their time cards and paperwork were thoroughly wet giving the rally Officials added complications when recording their times out in the field. Whatever, the sight of this madcap duo cheered up the wet and bedraggled Marshals no end. Their efforts also rightly earned them the popular, but entirely unofficial, ‘Nutter’s Award’!

Unlike the ‘big’ Mull in October each year this ‘Targa’ style event are all held on private ground and utilised a few Forestry and Land Scotland forestry sections. As for the ‘Regularity’ sections these are contested over precisely measured stretches of road where crews have to maintain a set average speed. This requires a delicate touch on the throttle and some serious concentration from the navigator, for every second over or under the target times will incur penalties.

The cars are different too. On the main October event competitors use specially prepared competition machines whereas ‘Targa’ rally cars are all pretty much standard production models with many people using historic and classic cars for added enjoyment.

Finishing third overall were Craig Wallace from Kirriemuir and Clifford Auld from Dromore, a repeat of their podium performance on the 2017 event. Just missing out on 3rd place by 10 seconds were the Northern Ireland crew of Michael Reid and John Lindsay in their MG Midget.

Ryan Hay and Niall Thomson were 5th in their rather unusual Toyota Paseo (which runs mainly Starlet parts) with the Subaru Impreza of Ian Buchanan and Gemma Conroy finishing 6th. Proving that ‘auld age’ is no barrier to success, there was grey hair (more white really!) in abundance inside the 7th placed Ford Puma of Alan Patterson and Bob Shearer.  Ian and Muriel Rae were 8th in a Citroen C2 ahead of the Escort Mk2 of Richard Wardle and Jonathan Mounsey with Richard giving Jonathan a ‘B’ grade for his skill on the Regularities.

This was in fact a bit mean. Prior to the rally it would appear that Richard had mis-read one of the requirements for one of the Regularities and had included this mis-information in his pre-rally briefing with Jonathan. Remember that Jonathan is primarily better know for driving, not navigating and this was only his second time in the ‘other’ seat having navigated for Richard last time. Anyway, They might actually have won the ‘Best on Regularities’ title and finished higher than 9th had it not been for this! At least it looked as though they were still pals at the after rally party.

Rounding off the top ten was the Peugeot 205 of Andy Tong and Emma Steeley just beating the similar car of Jamie Stewart and Simon Bailey. Duncan Cameron and Gary Ross finished just outside of the top ten courtesy of a ditch. Duncan tried to explain the mechanical and theoretical causes of this incident which of course was not driver induced in any way. However, this being later on in the evening and your erstwhile reporter already well advanced in savouring the delights of the Isle of Mull Hotel’s stock of ‘Heart & Soul’ lager (but prior to the switch to Tobermory single malt), the explanation went right over his head. Suffice to say, the following Ritchie boys in the MINI stopped to pull him out. Nice one boys.

Best of the island crews were father and son team Simon and Finn Thomasson from just outside Dervaig. On their first Mull event they finished 23rd overall in their Toyota Celica.

Tobermory’s Fergus and Craig Barlow finished 26th overall. Having spent the past 14 years in New Zealand, Craig was back home visiting the family when younger brother Fergus announced that they were doing a rally in the ex-MacCrone recce Ford Fiesta. Despite puncturing a tyre on only the second test, they completed the whole of the first half of the route using a ‘Spacesaver’ wheel until they managed to borrow a new wheel and tyre at the Lunch Halt.

Normally a front runner on the ‘big’ Mull each year, Salen’s Eddie O’Donnell Jnr finished a disappointing 28th overall from a field of 39 entries. Gallant as ever, Eddie blamed his navigator, daughter Amanda – who had just come off night shift and stepped straight into the Peugeot 206 rally car! I just hoped he said that out of Amanda’s earshot.

One place behind the father and daughter team were Tobermory’s Shaun Fisher and Oban’s Ross Graham in a Vauxhall Astra while Tobermory’s Chris Warden with Ian Mills from Barnoldswick finished 34th  in a Fiesta.

At the finish, winning co-driver Andrew Fish was very complimentary about this new event on the island saying: “It was superb. We really enjoyed it and the competition tested us both.” Runner-up Fraser Hughes added: “Given we were so close at the finish, perhaps we will take it bit more seriously next year!”

Top Ten

1, Andy Beaumont/Andrew Fish (Sunbeam Rapier H120) 20:01

2, Fraser Hughes/Peter MacInnes (Mazda MX5) 20.24

3, Craig Wallace/Clifford Auld (Toyota Corolla G6R) 20:37

4, Michael Reid/John Lindsay (MG Midget) 20:47

5, Ryan Hay/Niall Thomson (Toyota Paseo G6) 20.52

6, Ian Buchanan/Gemma Conroy (Subaru Impreza) 21:15

7, Alan Patterson/Bob Shearer (Ford Puma) 22:05

8, Ian Rae/Muriel Rae (Citroen C2 VTS) 22:13

9, Richard Wardle/Jonathan Mounsey (Ford Escort Mk2) 22:15

10, Andrew Tong/Emma Steeley (Peugeot 205 GTi) 22.20