After Britain’s longest car rally, WB reviews the entry, and Tom Threlfall reports from John O’Groats
A month or so after the veterans have had their Run to Brighton comes another event which is becoming a classic, namely the four-day LEJOG, for pre-1968 cars, with routes of varying distance to cater for the older vehicles, in five classes. The organiser points out that it is longer even than the Network RAC Rally, at 1630 miles on the full route — in fact, the longest car rally in Britain.
Accordingly, it brought in a representative entry. Leading the oldest cars was a seemingly improbable 1924 Lanchester 40 tourer, other pre-war cars being a Chrysler 77, Stross’s Blower 4½ Bentley, two 12/50 Alvises, a Lancia Augusta and a 1929/36 Riley Special. Those opting for the easier route drove Austin Heavy 12/4, MG 18/80, Lagonda LG45, 20/25 Rolls-Royce and a SS100; they were joined by a few of the more nervous post-war Classics. The main entry was notable for a trio of Jowett Javelins, a Jupiter, and a rare Marauder.
Starting, as the organiser said, from the stormy clifftops of Land’s End in the winter’s dawn of December 3, drivers immediately took a driving test and were then set a regularity stage along the Penwithick peninsula, and a Le Mans-start acceleration/braking test on an airfield and another timed-test at a Newquay caravan park. After a check on the A39 there came a stop/restart test on a hairpinned hill, then more time checks and a regularity bit, to two timed hill-tests at Porlock. If the drivers (they were not competitors as such; they were competing against the organisers, not against one another) had got that far they had a long haul on the A39/M5 to the supper halt by the Severn Bridge into Wales.
No respite afterwards, as Wales brought regularity tests and tight secret-checks across Army ranges and State forests, often on narrow, winding mountain roads. It was all night stuff, with the breakfast pause 50 miles north of Wrexham, then on up the M6 to Lancashire. After only a brief break the cars were routed up the Pennines to Edinburgh. Again, no easy run, because en route came a top-gear flexibility test, 50 miles of timed regularity and six driving tests on Army land. That was Sunday finished. It was just as tough on the Monday, with lappery of Knockhill circuit, a restart on Amutree and much more regularity driving, followed by a sprint up to a private hill, and a 60-mile keep-to-time exercise on narrow roads around Loch Ness. Inverness at around 19.45/21.15 for supper, then a night run over some of Britain’s wildest roads in NW Scotland, more regularity checks and a final driving test before the JOG finish!
As a long-established weekly (NOT Motoring News) has given up reporting international rallies because it found it too difficult, I accept that with so many tests and stages, one man could not do justice to LEJOG, so I will let T J T add his experiences on the run.
First away from the Land’s End Hotel and into a cone-free driving test on the peninsula were Peter and Sue Noble in their 1924 6-litre Lanchester at 8am on Saturday morning. The Nobles recently drove an S1 Bentley from London to Tibet via Saigon, and have learned to be very economical with luggage. They were followed at one-minute intervals in best M C C style by half-a-dozen vintage cars, eight from the early 1950s, and the rest from the Sixties, with John Bateson’s Sunbeam Tiger being the cub of the pack.
After the Eppynt ranges came the Forest of Bowland and some interesting Pennine villages where the time and passage controls were sited in pubs with warm fires, in Monte Carlo Rally style. Some of the more fancied front-runners (Geoff Breakell’s 3.8 Jaguar springs to mind) misrouted during that first night and were not seen again; 19 cars retired in the first three days.
Sunday night was spent just west of Edinburgh whence the players headed at first light for a very windswept Knockhill circuit and a regularity test; then west to Killin and Loch Rannoch to Dalwhinnie and down to a long regularity test entitled “Loch Ness Monster”. At the supper stop in Inverness it was becoming apparent that Geoff Awde (1957 MGA Coupe), Bill Ainscough (1929 Chrysler 77) and Ron Gammons (1965 MGB) had been doing the right things and were leading the field. Despite some quite nasty weather around the northwest of Scotland (hail bouncing four feet off the road, lying snow making it difficult to distinguish grass from narrow road, etc) the leaders were unchallenged to John O’Groats.
On Wednesday morning the caravan of elderly cars returned southwards, gathering souvenir haggises from Wick and bottles of local hydrocarbons from Britain’s highest distillery at Dalwhinnie. It had been a weekend of which promoter John Brown and his team of Historic Rally Car Register stalwarts could be proud. No doubt the shade of Mr E H Arnott was quite gratified, too; he was the MC C’s Club Captain in 1902, and led that club’s first End-to-End run in the same year. That one took 65hr 45min to complete.
The awards list runs to pages, so generous are the organisers, but I see that the Lanchester did win the award for the oldest car to complete the course, and that 46 finished out of 65 starters. Jo Mumford/Rose Scagrief (MGB) won the Ladies’ Rose Bowl. The Abingdon Joggers MG team took the Marque Team Trophy. Gold medal: G Awde/P Ward (MCA). Silver medals: B Ainscough/V Fairclough (Chrysler 77), K Burnett/H Milne-Taylor (Alvis 12/50), R Gammons/J Bourne (MGB). Bronze medals: J Dresser/Ian Bond (Triumph TR3A), T Dron/C Francis/G Byrne (Ford Zephyr), K Jones/B Owen (VW), A Senior/P Senior/C Forster (1.5 Riley), J Bateson/R Birchill (Sunbeam Tiger). Club Team Trophy: Two 12/50 Alvises and the Chrysler 77.