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Le Jog – Memoirs of a Gold Medal


20 Sep 2017

John Kiff continues his look back at the very first Le Jog and recounts the magic of winning the very first Gold Medal

The questions on our minds as we rolled up to that ‘tel box’ was; “how was this going to go?” Where were the catches going to be?’ We’d done lots of speed-table regularities (I had a just-in-case set in my rally bag and they were going to come in handy in due course) and we’d seen the ‘distance-and-time instruction’ sheet. It looked straightforward, but this was John Brown…

“Clear to the right?” asked Evan as we stopped at the T-junction to ‘go north’ after the first-ever LE JOG test.  Well, his powder-blue works replica TR4 was left-hand drive, you see – something that can be tricky for the navigator because you can’t see what the marshal is writing – but, luckily for me, as well as being a quick driver, Evan had also been an international co-driver and a CLO, so he had some idea about what was supposed to be going on outside his window at controls.So, with the Land’s End complex behind us we set off up the A30 then through St Just to Morvah to the start of the first-ever of what was to become known as ‘Jogularity’.  Described in the Overall Route Instructions (six-and-a-half pages of A4 covered the entire route to Lands’ End by the way!) as: RS A; Penwith RS; ON B3306 at Morvah, by tel box.

The plotting instructions for the reg. were straightforward: six references one each for points A to F. But to even things up, Mr Brown also instructed us to ‘Go through them in the order given according to your Age Category. Category B cars (up to 1940) had to visit B, D, E & F while Category C (1941 – 1959) did B, C, D, E & F and the youngest cars did everything. This different route per category system applied throughout the event and each had different average speeds as well!  Huge admiration for John Brown’s striving for perfection, despite the challenges it must have caused in setting the route and the nightmares it must have given the results crew – Tony Newman and Pete and Pat Brazier. I worked closely with Tony on the 2011-14 LE JOGs and I know how hard his job was then even though the different routes and averages were no longer a feature of the event.

The questions on our minds as we rolled up to that ‘tel box’ was; “how was this going to go?” Where were the catches going to be?’ We’d done lots of speed-table regularities (I had a just-in-case set in my rally bag and they were going to come in handy in due course) and we’d seen the ‘distance-and-time instruction’ sheet. It looked straightforward, but this was John Brown…

There were just 35 landmarks on the 15.56 miles; route finding proved to be no problem with the trusty OS map and keeping tabs on the time to be at each point (Junction; Toilets (yes, really!); Farm Track; National Trust sign etc.) was manageable.  Despite the novelty of it all I managed to be 5 secs early at the first (secret) Timing Point and 13 seconds late at the second.   Not perfect, but not too bad for a first go.  So Jogularity was born.  An invention that Colin Francis later described as ‘making regularities almost enjoyable’.  Well, he certainly got the hang of it quicker than the rest of us as he had the fewest penalties on Penwith – a total of 2 seconds! Such was the impression that this first Jogularity over the wild and wintry Cornwall clifftops made on me that, as a way of celebrating this great Brown invention, I decided to reproduce it exactly – even down to the control locations – for the 20th running of LE JOG in 2014. So, back to the road atlas to find our way to the next test – Perranporth Airfield and a timed Le Mans start, acceleration and braking test run by Keith Baud and his team.  Le Mans starts became a feature of LE JOG though in later years held near the Scottish Border. Not one of my favourites though because on the 2009 event, with my brother Edward navigating, I pulled a hamstring while ‘letting my clutch out’ to run to the car at the start of the test.  I completed it, but then had to go off route to search for painkillers (found a chemist in Rothbury) and shortly afterwards hand over the driving to Ed until Aviemore and turn my hand back to navigating.

Four sprinter-drivers shared the honours on that first Le Mans Start test with scratch penalties of 35 seconds in cars that varied from a Jaguar MkIX to a Ford Anglia.  Probably said something about their athletic abilities and dexterity in doing up seat belts as much as it did about the performance of their car.  Impressively one of the pre-war Alvis’ was only 3 seconds slower. Next, we went inland to another novel test – but one that doubtless featured ‘in period’ – the observed hill restart test at Lanner Mill – around an downhill hairpin on a stretch of public road! In Mr. Brown’s ever-present search for fairness the test was different depending on which end of the car the driven wheels were and the time allowed differed by age category.  Rear Wheel Drive cars (us) drove from the start line A-A to stop astride B-B sited (of course) on the apex, and steepest part, of the hairpin.  We then had to reverse back uphill and go right of B-B downhill to stop astride C-C.  We were allowed 30 seconds but took 37 – it wasn’t as easy as it looked and the clutch had taken a beating…Front Wheel Drive cars (a Saab and 2 Minis) had a much more complicated test which entailed two reversing manoeuvres to enable them to tackle the re-start uphill but their time limit was 55 seconds. Only 15 cars cleaned the test and most only by the skin of their teeth. After that was the test that was probably the most entertaining – certainly the most sideways.  A trip round the greasy roadways of the (unoccupied) Hendra Holiday Park.  Only 6 stop-astrides in 1.13 miles! Speeds were ‘controlled’ by numerous 90 degree corners and hairpins with the ominous threat of having to explain why your historic rally car was embedded in the bathroom of someone’s beloved Willerby holiday home if you got it wrong.  Rumour had it that one or two competitors came very close having thoroughly flouted the ‘not on the grass’ rule!  I’m not sure if LJ was ever invited back.  But it was GREAT fun! Following that, and perhaps to allow drivers to recuperate, there was the first ‘change-driver’ section.  A Brown technique to overcome the Blue Book rules for two-hour rest halts and keep the pressure on.  Simple navigation (fortunately for the drivers) took us to that iconic pub, the Jamaica Inn and to MC2.  Coffee was supped and war stories exchanged – but we weren’t even half way through Cornwall yet!

More from John Kiff soon as he recollects his exploits on the very first running of Le Jog – The first and only crew to achieve ‘Gold’ Status on that very first event. Read about this years’ Le Jog here

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