As London’s Hyde Park patiently awaited sunrise last November 6th, nearly 400 crews were scurrying through the park’s pre-dawn chill, getting ready for their annual trek from the capital to the coast as part of the 2016 Bonhams Veteran Car Run, otherwise known as the London to Brighton Run.
A number of significant anniversaries were marked at this year’s event as it’s been 120 years since the first “Emancipation Run” in celebration of England’s Locomotive on the Highway Act, and 130 years since Karl Benz revealed his “Patent Motorwagen,” the three-wheeled, gasoline-powered vehicle that is considered by some to be the world’s first automobile. As part of the latter celebration, Daimler Benz entered a number of early Benz and Mercedes cars from its museum.
One of them was a 1901 Benz Spyder driven by ex-F1 team owner turned TV pundit Eddie Jordan. A London to Brighton novice, Jordan quickly adapted to the somewhat slower pace of Benz, and hailed the day as right up there alongside anything he had savored in his motor sport career.
“What a fabulous experience! It surpassed all my expectations ten fold,” Jordan enthused. “This equals the best day I’ve ever had in F1. You can’t describe it. Everybody should make the effort to come out and see the Run, or try to participate if they can.”
Another F1 “name” taking part was former championship-winning team owner Ross Brawn, who completed the course in his 1904 Wilson Pilcher.
Following the ceremonial tearing of the red flag by Jordan, the cars set off alongside Buckingham Palace and down the Mall before heading past Big Ben and over Westminster Bridge to begin the journey to the coast.
Of the 392 starters, 351 made it to Brighton ahead of the 4:30 p.m. deadline to claim a coveted finishers’ medal. Appropriately in a year celebrating German cars, the first car home was the 1903 racing Mercedes (left) driven by Chris Scott from Jersey that arrived in the sunny seaside resort shortly after 10 a.m. With its mighty 9.2-liter engine delivering an impressive 60 bhp, perhaps that was no surprise.
The Run marked the end of the Royal Automobile Club’s London Motor Week, a seven-day celebration of motoring that included an art exhibition, lectures, a motoring forum and book awards. Look for Photo Gallery coverage in next month’s issue.