It was a rain soaked weekend for this year’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which took place last Sunday 6th November. Nearly 350 people took part in this year’s event with the stormy weather doing nothing to dampen participants’ spirits as they started their hundreds of pioneering automobiles to complete in what is the world’s longest-running motoring event.
Wet weather gear was most definitely the order of the day as the majority of the pioneering pre-1905 vehicles offer very little shelter from the elements, and with the rain pouring down, valiant crews had to endure one of the wettest runs ever in the famous event’s 126 year history. What a contrast it was to last year’s event which was held in beautiful autumn sunshine.
However, the bad weather did not deter the drivers, passengers and onlookers as the cars set off at dawn from Hyde Park on the 60-mile course to Brighton to claim a very well deserved finisher’s medal.
As is customary, the start is preceded by the ritual tearing up of the symbolic red flag, with this year’s ceremony carried out by the drivers of three legendary Napiers which were honouring the 120th anniversary of Selwyn Francis Edge’s milestone victory in the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup from Paris to Innsbruck.
The Napiers were being driven by Evert Louwman of the Louwman Museum, Doug Hill of the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu and Martin Chisholm, driving the 1902 victor now owned by Daniel Sielicki.
Other drivers included former F1 driver Max Chilton at the tiller of the 1901 Pope Waverley entered by Harrods, comedian Rowan Atkinson aboard a 1893 Salvesen Steam Car, and HRH Prince Michael of Kent, President of the Royal Automobile Club, driving the 1903 Daimler owned by the Jaguar Daimler Heritage Trust.
Once underway, the cars splashed their way past many of London’s most famous landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Admiralty Arch, Trafalgar Square and The Cenotaph before entering Parliament Square and heading out of London in two groups, one half crossing Westminster Bridge under the watchful eyes of Big Ben and the other half crossing Lambeth Bridge.
The two routes converged north of Croydon with the entire drenched field then heading towards a very welcome halfway stop and shelter from the elements at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley.
Having dried out a little, the cars then set off passing through the rural villages of Sussex and then over the South Downs and through the streets of a flooded Brighton to a long awaited and very welcome finish on a wet and windy seaside Madeira Drive where our photographer Gary Harman was waiting to photograph the cars as they crossed the finish line.
It was also an opportunity for the exhausted, bedraggled but cheery finishers to enjoy a well-earned hot-pot of stew provided by RM Sotheby’s, while Aberfeldy Single Malt Whisky served some much-appreciated hot toddies.
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club said at the end:
“I have certainly had easier and more comfortable Veteran Car Runs but few if any have been more rewarding than this year’s epic London to Brighton. The inclement weather certainly gave everyone a taste of what early motorists back in the Victorian era had to endure in the days before cars offered any real protection from the elements.
“I congratulate all those who accepted this year’s challenge and congratulate even more everyone who endured all that Mother Nature could muster. They came smiling through. I would also like to thank all the wonderful volunteers who lined the route, cheering us on all the way and, of course, our ever enthusiastic partners without whom this very special annual homage – the world’s longest running motoring event – quite simply would not be possible.”
This year’s event, however, not only reminds us of the impact the advent of motorised transport had on people’s lives after centuries of horse-drawn carriages but also showcased the future of motoring with two of the venerable pre-1905 vehicles running on innovative sustainable fuels.
Whilst this is nothing new, as some of the cars regularly seen on the London to Brighton are driven by electric and steam engines as well as primitive combustion engines. This is however, the first time that veteran cars have pioneered sustainable fuels on the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
Ben Cussons in fact drove the 10bhp, 1901 Mors entered by the Royal Automobile Club, running for the first time on a forward-thinking sustainable fuel and was equally impressed with his findings.
“It really could not have been any easier. The fuel only arrived 24 hours before the Run – we simply drained and refilled the tank, completed a short test drive and packed the Mors off to London for the dawn start on the next day. In what were truly testing conditions, the car performed superbly – if anything the engine ran better than ever.
“While electric cars may be part of the solution, it’s so very important that we keep an open mind. If we can find affordable alternatives that do not require a complete overhaul of the infrastructure as well as environmentally costly replacement of existing vehicles, so much the better. And, from both my own personal experience having driven the Mors on last weekend’s RM Sotheby’s Veteran Car Run, and those of Wolfgang’s, such eFuels must be part of this solution.”
For more information on both the RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, please visit: www.veterancarrun.com.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs by Gary Harman