Friday 6 October 2023

Rally - The Tobermory 200

Rallying on Mull hasn’t always been on tarmac. In the early days it used some loose surface stretches of private road as well as public road selectives and it has also run a rallysprint on a stretch of Forestry Commission road. Less well known is Mull’s own special stage rally – the Tobermory 200.

Way back in May of 1991 James MacGillivray scored his first ever outright rally victory, on the Mishnish Hotel Tobermory 200 Rally. Unlike the main October event run over closed public roads this early season thrash featured 32 miles of special stages over mixed tar and gravel surfaces. Having replaced his Ralloy Escort's 1300 engine with a 1600 engine, MacGillivray was expected to be a front runner but there was some fierce competition in store from the other 31 runners.

Unfortunately, the previous year's runner-up, Eddie O'Donnell appeared late at the rally start (some things never change, eh?) with last minute problems in the Torosay Coal Escort. Even starting last car did not allow Eddie the time to effect a permanent cure and he retired after just three stages with a badly smoking engine.

Gordon Boyd had also struck trouble in the third stage with a spin resulting in a stalled engine, which then refused to fire up quickly. Then it was Robin Hamilton's turn. Flying over the ‘yump’ in Ardura (south of Craignure), the Sunbeam landed on its nose bending the steering and splaying the front wheels. This gave MacGillivray a bit of a breather at the head of the field but he too admitted to a fright in Ardura. His Escort had actually bounced off the road following the ‘yump’ but miraculously bounced back on again!

But they were the lucky ones, Alan Mair was fast losing gears in his Escort and retired at the half way halt while Graham Brown encountered a roadside rock in the first stage when flat in third. It was quite a sore one - from 80 mph to zero in a matter of yards! Chris Paton also retired with a broken distributor and Alan Brodie broke his diff. Jim Fergusson's rally started ominously with a puncture on the first road section then a steering coupling broke in Ardura, followed by a kindly inquiry from the local constabulary surveying the sorry looking front end: "You won't be going any further, will you sir?" He didn't!

Boyd and Hamilton shared the fastest times over the mist shrouded Genesis tests, named after the helpful Phil Collins (Yes, ‘the’ Phil Collins!) who allowed the use of his land (at Pennyghael), but MacGillivray was never far away and at the half way point was leading the field on 18 Minutes 14 Seconds from Hamilton on 18:22 and Boyd on 18:36.

Heading north back up the island over the same tests run in reverse Boyd grabbed another couple of fastest times but MacGillivray snatched three. Also showing well was the V8 powered Ascona of Mike McKenzie who was quickest over two of the tests and earlier in the morning had really impressed the locals with a time just 2 seconds slower than MacGillivray over ‘the Vets’, the road on which young MacGillivray had originally learned to drive!

Sadly for McKenzie, the best result of his career slipped from his grasp when the clutch failed on the final stage and he and Gordon Smith had to get out and push the recalcitrant beast for over a mile to record a finish! McKenzie's troubles gave young Graham Brown his chance to snatch 4th place in his Sunbeam ahead of team mate John McKenzie in the Opel Ascona while the car-pushing McKenzie dropped back to 7th behind Anda Campbell’s Sunbeam.

MacGillivray finished with a flourish fastest over the final return visit to ‘the Vets’ to take a highly deserved and popular first ever rally victory. This event was also notable for another reason. Finishing in eighth place overall in the co-driving seat was a youngster who was sorely desperate to be old enough to get his driving licence - and put on his driving boots!


1, James MacGillivray/Colin Kennedy (Ford Escort) 36:16

2, Robin Hamilton/Nicky Geddes  (Talbot Sunbeam) 36:44

3, Gordon Boyd/Callum Guy  (Talbot Sunbeam) 36:50

4, Graham Brown/Ian Wilshire  (Talbot Sunbeam) 37:58

5, John McKenzie/Trish Elder  (Opel Ascona) 38:19

6, Anda Campbell/Neil McKinnon  (Talbot Sunbeam) 39:26

7, Mike McKenzie/Gordon Smith  (Opel Ascona) 39:28

8, Alistair Ingram/Calum Duffy  (Sunbeam Lotus) 39:37

9, Ian Donaldson/Alex McNeill  (Ford Escort) 39:52

10, Steve Davis/Robert Mathieson  (Ford Fiesta) 40:55

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