The clocks were turned back more than 100 years on Sunday 4 November as 449 pre-1905 veteran cars lined up in the torrential rain at Hyde Park, London, to take part in the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run – the oldest motoring event in the world. Five of the participants only decided to take part last minute having successfully purchased a vehicle eligible for the run at the Bonhams auction on Friday 2 November. Out of the 449 starters that set out from London's Hyde Park at 07:00, 372 successfully made the finish line at Madeira Drive, Brighton. 77 vehicles had to retire early due to technical problems.
The first participant to finish was Ian Moore from New Milton, Hampshire crossing the finish line at 10:21 driving an 1899 Panhard et Levassor while the last officially to arrive at Madeira Drive Ceremonial finish was competitor Derek Payne, from Brisbane, Australia who limped across the finish line at 16:38 in a 1901 De Dion Bouton. The vehicle had experienced many problems along the way, but he remained upbeat and very proud to have completed the run. He said: "this is the first time I have ever driven a veteran car, the vehicle belongs to my boss. You really have to get used to the brakes and steering, it takes a great deal of concentration managing the car and battling the weather.” But undeterred he continued, “we’ll be sending her back to Oz, will fix her up, and return again next year, but for now I can’t wait for a warm drink and a nice hot bath”.
This year saw regular participant Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason, TV adventurer Charley Boorman, Coronation Street actor Tony Hirst, Land Speed Legend Wing Commander Andy Green and former Formula One drivers Jochen Mass and Sir Stirling Moss OBE all successfully cross the finish line.
Mason once again entered his 1901 Panhard et Levassor Roi-des-Belges. He has taken part every year since 1985 and only failed to finish on two occasions.
Boorman made his debut on the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run having accepted an invitation to join the Shawe family in their 1904 English Mechanic – which was originally built from plans in a weekly magazine. They finished at 11:50 making it one of Boorman's shortest adventures. He said afterwards: "As I sat on the start line at Hyde Park, in an open top car, with it lashing down with rain I thought what am I doing here. It was torrential and continued to get worse, many of the roads were flooded and it was relentless for about an hour and a half. Despite the weather I was blown away with the amount of spectators that lined the streets to cheer everyone on. I met some great people throughout the day, and the Shawe family just made it, their enthusiasm was incredible, they didn’t seem to bat an eyelid about the weather. I've been on adventures all over the world but this was fantastic, a true British experience, in a great British car!"
The Shawe family’s vehicle, a 1904 English Mechanic, affectionately nicknamed Emma was built by Sidney Cheald of Chesham in 1904, to the design that appeared in a series of construction articles in the weekly magazine “The English Mechanic and World of Science”. Mrs Joan Shawe restored the car over many years from 1954 to 1972, and subsequently drove it in many London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs; it is now owned by Mrs Shawe’s son John. The family has taken part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run 33 times since 1972, reaching the finish line on 30 occasions.
Another competitor was Tony Hirst, best known for playing Paul Kershaw in the iconic British Soap Coronation Street. Tony has raced in the Silverstone Classic and is passionate about the world of automobiles. His Great Grandfather Frank Morriss was a pioneer of British Steam Cars and played an active role in the London to Brighton run since the 30's. Tony was a passenger in David Stark’s vehicle, a 1904 Tourer Cadillac, which has taken part in the event over 25 times. The vehicle suffered numerous technical problems and at one point nearly withdrew; Tony physically pushed it across the finish line and was incredibly emotional with the whole experience. He is now the fourth generation of his family to have completed the run.
Other personalities on the event included car enthusiast, Joy Rainey, who has taken part many times. This year's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run acted as her warm-up and preparation for her 2,826-mile trip across the USA in her faithful 109-year old Oldsmobile in 2013.
Meanwhile, ultramarathon runner, Duncan Philips, ran from London to Brighton as part of a bet with fellow competitor Dan Suskin from the USA in his 1902 Delahaye. Their wager, was for the last person to cross the finish line was to buy the ice creams. Dan was carrying a GPS device, with his co-ordinates being reported back to the event crew regularly. He explained that the night before he drove the route and discreetly hid high energy supplies at ten of the locations. However the majority of it had disappeared on the day, so he survived on just two coffees and Mars Bars. Both Duncan and Dan arrived at the finish line at 12:36 neck and neck, and then gentlemanly wanted to let each other cross first. Both Duncan and Dan were presented with a finisher’s medal and ice creams.
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee, said: "Following the tremendous excitement of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and then the Olympics and Paralympics, the Royal Automobile Club was pleased to round off 2012 with an equally spectacular world-class event in the Celebration of Motoring weekend – of which the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run was the showpiece."
The Royal Automobile Club is grateful for the support of event title sponsors Bonhams and Tindle Newspapers. Sir Ray Tindle, Chairman of Tindle Newspapers made it clear that his ongoing support for the Run is based on his love of his favourite motoring event. Although this was Sir Ray’s 49th London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, his interest in the event goes back to his childhood when, as a boy of seven, he watched the cars pass close to his Streatham home, and dreamed of one day, taking part. In the summer of 1993 the then organisers of the Run sent out an appeal to the participants: the ‘Brighton Run’ did not have a sponsor, and was in danger of suffering as a result. Sir Ray not only responded with sponsorship in that and each of the subsequent 19 years. Sir Ray crossed the finishing line yesterday, and celebrated with a tot of brandy to warm him up.
The Royal Automobile Club would also like to extend their appreciation to EFG International, RAC Motoring Services, Hagerty, Abels, Regent Street Association, Motul, Kuoni, The Telegraph and Dennis Publishing for their continued partnerships.
The original London to Brighton run was held on 14 November 1896 when 30 motoring pioneers celebrated the passing into law of the Locomotives on the Highway Act, which raised the speed limit for 'light locomotives' from 4mph to 14mph and abolished the requirement for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot. The event was known as the Emancipation Run.
Notes to Editors:
About The Royal Automobile Club
Founded in 1897, the Royal Automobile Club's continuous support and promotion of the development of motoring in Great Britain began with the famous 1000 Mile Trial in 1900. In recent years the Royal Automobile Club has focused on running the three largest annual free-to-spectate motor shows in the country.
Saturday 3 November saw the third annual RAC Future Car Challenge, which runs from Brighton to London and showcases the performance of low energy use vehicles. A wide range of electric, hybrid and low fuel consumption conventional vehicles are expected– some of which will make their debut on UK roads.
The weekend of free motoring action continued with the Regent Street Motor Show, also on Saturday 3 November. Here the world's premier concours event for veteran cars was joined by future cars and iconic vehicles to celebrate the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries of motoring. Regent Street was closed to traffic, making a relaxed and spacious family shopping experience, with displays, stage shows, award presentations and passenger rides.
The world's oldest motoring event, the annual Royal Automobile Club’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, took place on Sunday 4 November with nearly 500 vehicles built before 1905. Each year the event has a chosen country to celebrate and in 2012 it was Great Britain – tying in with The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run supports The Royal British Legion.
The Royal Automobile Club also presents a number of significant awards each year including The Dewar Trophy which recognises outstanding British technical achievement in the automotive field. The trophy was awarded to the Ford Motor Company on Wednesday 31 October 2012.
About RAC Motoring Services:
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Rebecca Nicholls - Media Manager