The 50 years that made Mini Legends

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.

Full details – including what makes this event unique – are below

1. What prompted this event?

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 1st, 2nd and 3rd 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.”

2. Why Paddy, Rauno, Terry and Mike?

Paddy and Rauno were B.M.C. works drivers from the 1960s and it was Rauno Aaltonen who finished 2nd and Paddy Hopkirk 3rd 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.

3.  What’s the current interest in Minis?

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!

4.  What of the Rally Line-up?

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”.



JKC Mini in Coleraine are being very supportive of this three day event and will play host to Rauno Aaltonen and Basil Wales on the morning of Friday 3rd June to meet and greet mini enthusiasts.  Basil Wales was the special tuning department manager in the 60’s at BMC so this will be a very nostalgic visit for him.  They’ll all then make the journey to Gracehill to witness the scrutineering.


The scrutineering at Gracehill starts at approximately 11.00 am and continues until approximately 4.00pm. This will be followed in the evening by a Barbecue and a Forum at Gracehill for which a limited number of tickets are still available – for tickets mail with your name and number.


The Official Start of the Rally is at Gracehill from 10.00am when competitors will compete a half mile route around Gracehill before heading off to Ballycastle Forest Park.  With the unique sound of the vehicles’ straight cut gear box echoing in peoples’ ears they’ll travel via Torr Head to Cushendun where they will have a regroup followed by lunch at the National Trust’s Glenmona House and then onwards to Glendun.  They’ll then head back to Gracehill via the famous Dark Hedges where they’ll repeat the morning’s special stage around the Estate and then to the Finishing Line.

There’ll be time to relax before the Prize-giving Dinner at which there will be a raffle and auction of celebrity items.  Well known local Compere and DJ Brian Moore will act as host for the night which will also feature the superb duo Partners in Crime.


Sunday is a Classic Car and Motorcycle Show which starts from early morning until approximately 5.00 pm. Entries for this event are open to all car clubs and/or anyone with a classic car or motorcycle.  Entry Forms can be downloaded from the M.I.N.I. website.   The aim here is to make this a Family Fun Day with stalls, food facilities, side shows, children’s entertainment, music hosted by Brian Moore and guests and admission is absolutely free – although opportunities to donate to the Air Ambulance Charity will, of course, be available.

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.


Since coming under new ownership Gracehill House is aspiring to become a top resort offering quality golf and accommodation.  Set in the stunning surroundings of Gracehill and sitting in the shadows of the famous Dark Hedges future plans include quality culinary experiences such as a farm shop and cafe offering local produce, a bar bistro and high end dining – and that’s only the beginning!  Of this event they said, “We’re delighted to host The Mini Legends and we hope this will serve as a catalyst for other activities with the motoring clubs of the UK and Ireland.  Gracehill House has so much to offer whether it’s corporate, charitable, functions, leisure or any of the myriad of current day events and we’re only too willing to discuss any such plans with you be they big or small.  Gracehill House has the ambition to be a quality destination for both the local and international market and a major strategy is currently being put in place to achieve all of these goals”.

T – 028 20751209