400+ cars dating back to the dawn of motoring braved blustery – and often sodden conditions – to take part in today’s Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
As tradition dictates, the 118th Anniversary Run set out from Hyde Park at daybreak and headed 60 miles south through London and on to a stormy Sussex coast. For only the second time in more than half a century, this year’s route took the intrepid participants – all driving pioneering cars from the pre-1905 era – past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall before heading past Big Ben and over Westminster Bridge.
Among those turning back the clock were Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Ben Ainslie, as well as former F1 team principal Ross Brawn and Le Mans winner Jochen Mass.
Remarkably one of the illustrious participating celebrities was in the first car to reach the ceremonial finish on Madeira Drive, as Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 1904 Panhard-Levassor romped to the Brighton seafront with Ainslie onboard. Laidlaw is not only a Veteran Car Run regular but also a keen sailor, so it was little surprise to see the duo coping best with the challenging elements.
There was high drama for Brawn whose 1904 Wilson Pitcher – the last known surviving British built machine of its kind – had difficulties on its coast-bound run.
“It was very enjoyable,” said Brawn. “Obviously I don’t get the chance to actually drive the car in most of the automotive work that I’m involved in so that was a nice change. The mixed weather provided an extra challenge and edge but one that we enjoyed very much.
“We had a broken oil pipe just as we got to Crawley and the RAC Motoring Services volunteer patrolmen did a sterling job. They rescued us by fitting a piece of rubber pipe in the middle of the fractured one and it’s thanks to them that we got here.
“The whole thing has been wonderful fun. I’d never experienced the sheer enthusiasm for the Run before – from leaving London at that time of the morning, to driving through the villages along the way and then indeed arriving in Brighton itself. It truly has been a wonderful experience.”
Another impressive entry was the steam-powered 1888 Truchutet – the oldest car on the run – but this was one of the machines that unfortunately failed to make the finish.