Mini Legends to descend on Gracehill

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Gracehill House, which is adjacent to the famous Dark Hedges, is playing host to the Mini Legends event on Friday 3rd, Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June.

Further to an idea by long term Mini enthusiasts George Jennings and Trevor Barlow the countryside will come alive with three days of events which include a Rally on the Saturday and a Family Fun Day with an opportunity for Car Enthusiasts to show off their vehicles on the Sunday.

Appearing on all three days are names that are synonymous with the legends that surround the iconic BMC Mini - Paddy Hopkirk MBE, Rauno Aaltonen, Terry Harryman, Mike Wood and a host of others.

With the longstanding interest in Minis in Northern Ireland and with four works cars in this relatively small country, friends and Mini enthusiasts George Jennings and Trevor Barlow decided it would be a great idea to organise an event to celebrate the Minis’ success.

It is exactly 50 years since the BMC Works Minis were disqualified from coming first, second and third in the Monte Carlo Rally which became known as the “Monte Carlo Fiasco”.

George and Trevor’s wish is that, after costs, all proceeds would go to a Rally Charity but since none exists in Northern Ireland they felt the most appropriate was the Air Ambulance.

Just a year ago such a service was merely a dream but thanks to the efforts of a special few the Government recently announced that it was releasing funding to help make it a reality. “What people maybe don’t realise is that whilst the Air Ambulance will be a great asset for local sport, the general public will also benefit with its unique ability to reach sometimes difficult locations with great speed and so it wasn’t difficult to decide this was our favoured charity.”

Paddy and Rauno were B.M.C. works drivers from the 1960s and it was Rauno Aaltonen who finished second and Paddy Hopkirk third behind team mate Timo Makinen in 1966 when they were disqualified.

This was achieved in a period where other manufacturers had much bigger engines thus producing more power but the minis had the advantage of exceptional handling.

Terry Harryman and Mike Wood were B.M.C. navigators in the 1960’s and indeed Terry continued well into the 80’s.

Today the Mini still competes thanks to drivers such as Mervyn Johnston from Kesh who has been rallying in them from the early 60’s and is still right up there with the best.

Ray Cunningham from Galway managed to beat the more powerful Escorts and Porsches in recent events and Lloyd Hutchinson from Wicklow is a regular class winner when competing in his modified Mini.

Glen Leece from the Isle of Man is another very experienced and successful Mini driver as is his fellow countryman Adrian Kermode.

And there’s also Rory Tougher and Colin McDowell, two more fast and skilled Mini drivers who have

achieved great results.

These multi-talented competitors will make this a very exciting day indeed!

This event brings a host of talented Mini drivers from all over Northern Ireland, Ireland, the Isle of Man and even an entry from Florida.

Any one of these drivers could end up as Winners but with names such as Sam Bowden and Norman Ferguson showing their skills from their autotest days it’ll be no walkover!

One thing that’s assured it’ll be highly entertaining as it’s been a long time since such an array of talented “Mini” drivers took part in an event like this and it is a privilege for all concerned to line up with the Mini Legends that are Hopkirk, Aaltonen, Harryman and Wood.

As one enthusiast described it, “We’ve all heard of the golf masters but these are the Mini Masters”.

The Mini Legends Paddy Hopkirk M.B.E., Rauno Aaltonen, Terry Harryman and Mike Wood will be in attendance for all three days. Visitors will also be able to purchase the book “King Fisher” by the iconic Bertie Fisher as well as publications by Mike Wood and others. Details on these and other additions to the programme will be made known as they are added to what is becoming a very busy schedule of events.