After a sabbatical of around five years, Saturday 30 September 2023 saw the return on the ‘Mourne Run’ in what turned out to be a well-supported event, despite the inclement weather.
Reignited this year by classic car and rallying enthusiasts, William James and Alistair Gray, this year’s run was opened to a greater selection of vehicles than has been permitted in years gone by.

William said, “The Moune Run has been going for about a dozen years now. Originally it was organised by the Irish Escort Owners Club, with Colin Lindsay and Jim Davidson, who are two great fellas, being the driving force.

“Originally, it was an invitation only sort of run. It was basically a Ford event and then they brought in the Retro Rally Replica Group. This then added a handful of rally replica vehicles, but it was still invitation only.

“They have been organising it for a number of years but have taken a sabbatical, meaning the Mourne Run hasn’t happened since I think, 2018. And just with the way things are going, you know the cost-of-living crisis and everything else, there is a lot of doom and gloom.

Continuing, “Myself and Alistair Gray said, ‘we’ll get it out and get it going again’. So yeah, it was just nice to organise something. We organised the recent Down Run as well, which raised £650 for Slieve Croob First Responders, and we have big plans for next year.”

There was however a very clear message of what was welcomed this year. Not wanting to attract an abundance of felt spec diesel’s and IS200’s, organisers made sure to keep the classic ethos of the event alive by opening it to all makes and models of classic and rally cars.

If you wanted to bring a modern car, it needed to come with some sort of rallying pedigree. Homogolation type cars such as the Impreza WRX, Focus RS or Yaris GR would always be accepted with open arms. It was the oldies that stole the show, though.

The cavalcade was led by a GrpB Talbot Samba, within the ranks fell a handful of Escorts, a Transit service barge, a couple of Manta’s, Sierra Cosworth’s, Mini’s, and yes, even MX-5’s now fall into the classic car category just perfectly.

It was very cool to see a couple of Defender’s enjoying a drive out, as well as E36 BMW’s, a VW Corrado, a Metro, and a couple of Capri’s alongside a Lanica Delta Integrale and Porsche 911. Two cars that stole my heart were the Fiat 131 and especially the turbocharged rear-wheel-drive Starlet.

The Mourne Run started at 11:00 in Slieve Gullion Forest car park and embarked on a through the amazing Slieve Gullion Forest Drive before traversing it’s way to Spelga Dam via some of County Down’s finest roads that have been used for rallying and hillclimbing over the years.

Posting on social media after the day, organisers said, “Well folks! What can we say? “Great turnout today! Thanks to all who braved the conditions to join us for The Mourne Run!
“The results are in! Participants choice awards are as follows!

1st Marty McClean – V8 Celica
2nd Mark Owens – wide-arched Starlet
3rd Paul Tate – MkI Mexico
4th Alistair Gray – MkI Mexico
5th David Curley – Fiat 131

We’ll get a total for the air ambulance and post later. Many thanks’ folks and see you next year.”

On writing this piece, I have received confirmation that a very respectable total of £631 was raised for Air Ambulance NI and I tip my hat not only to the small team who brought this event back, but also to each and every driver who presented their pride and joys in weather that the vast majority of the cars never see. Well done, everyone!



Graham is a photojournalist and motoring writer with over 20 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and motoring events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and Ulster Motor Writers Association.