Land's End to John o'Groats
It has a mighty reputation as the toughest classic car trial in Europe. Like a diamond, it has a hard cutting edge at 1500 miles over four days and nights traversing the length of Britain... Read more ...
It has a mighty reputation as the toughest classic car trial in Europe. Like a diamond, it has a hard cutting edge at 1500 miles over four days and nights traversing the length of Britain, taxing, testing, definitely tiring to the point of fatigue unless precautions are taken.
Yet it is an endurance trial that seems to act as perpetual magnet, crews return from all over the globe to Land’s End to be put through yet more punishing regularities and harsh tests to see what can break, the car the crew or both? Just crossing the finish line in John O’ Groats Scotland is a major achievement and cause for joy, some have even finished it on the back of a tow truck so determined are crews just to finish the event. Entered for the 24th Le Jog are over seventy crews from twelve countries as far apart as Canada and Austria.
Both crew and car need to be prepared for…….anything! Tough navigational challenges, a variety of tests and regularities conducted in weather that could range from blinding sun or fog, severe frost, ice or snow. Yet somehow crews find ways of not just surviving but shining in the results as their incentives are gold, silver and bronze medals, to win one of them is a feat.
There is a black mark alongside Le Jog in the HERO event description, not for it’s dark ways but as a warning that this event is for experts. Every facet of the event shouts preparation and experience, so how does ten time Clerk of the Course Peter Nedin and current Clerk of the Course and HERO Competitions Director Guy Woodcock class the event and what tips can they offer the unwary?
Having previously worked in the course car for many events with the originator John Brown, Peter Nedin took over as Clerk of the Course for ten consecutive events from 2005. Peter agreed on it’s magnet like effect: ” Ten consecutive events in charge is enough for anybody, the intensity and sleep deprivation are twice as bad for the organisers and yet I keep coming back to help in any way I can. For anyone new to the event it’s a question of how to survive, are the crew and car prepared for four days of intense activity? The elements can change by the hour which is why crews need to pace themselves, drink plenty of water and eat energy bars. Warm clothing, including wet weather gear are a must.
“What does surprise me is how many teams forget to check their car battery, it has to be in good condition just like the jack. It’s also advisable to carry key spares such as bulbs, plugs, and a condenser in a waterproof box and fit a second coil alongside the existing one. It’s all part of the thorough preparation required to try and help competitors finish Le Jog, a unique event which I would describe as the ultimate road rally trial for classic car enthusiasts.”
Guy Woodcock who is equally adept as a winning classic rally car driver as he is running events and devising challenging routes, gave this advice to anyone fresh to the event when considering the tough regularities and exacting tests he has set over four days and three nights.
“Forget about time, just make sure you go the right way and find the controls and drive at a sensible speed. OS maps are the best in the world, all the information is there, but the driver can help on regularities by describing what he or she sees, a road on the right, passing a church or going uphill for example. As for the Tests, just go out and have some fun, but you have to be clear on your right from left, the hand has to overrule the mind. I have seen navigators pointing left when they mean right!”
Once the final route references have been issued in Land’s End, navigators scatter to tables spreading their maps and wisdom to plot the route. Furrowed brows, pencils scratching away for hours as navigators keep their heads down. This is equally a major navigational and driving challenge where one wrong slot can mean plummeting off the medal board. Iain Tullie, WRC M-Sport Coordinator recently returned from Australia after playing a key role in orchestrating the team’s triumphant second world rally drivers title win with Sebastian Ogier, loves nothing better than a genuine set of daunting navigational tasks. And this will be a tough event even for a professional like him: ” It’s the concentration that’s so difficult, but the driver can share the work load and help ease some of the pressure, one way is by sticking to the right speeds on the road. Working as a team is so important otherwise you can get exhausted by the end of day one, never mind day four. What I would say to any new navigators on the event is don’t be afraid to ask other navigators to check your plot on the map, people are happy to share their experience!”
Iain and his driver Andy Lane are record six time Le Jog gold medallists, in 2017 they achieved gold in their BMW 2002ti but by sharp contrast this year they will be in an open top 1938 Morgan 4-4 in the depths of winter, adding exposure to the elements as part of their challenge!
Three other Pre War cars will also face the fresh air test as pre 1942 cars make a welcome return. Brian Scowcroft and Chris Ford are rallying a 1936 Chevrolet Fangio Coupe, Stuart Anderson and Richard Lambley, Elliott Dale and Charlotte Ryall in 1936 Bentley Derby and 1937 Bentley Derby Special respectively.
Survival tips for crews in open cockpit cars in potentially sub zero conditions take on a whole new level of importance as even the most basic of operations becomes a hard task. So the best person to help guide his fellow open roofers is a survivor himself, Elliott Dale. He rowed the Atlantic twice beating the world record for ‘open class’ pairs boats in 2014. Now he is going to try and float his glorious 1937 Bentley Derby Special from soggy coast to snow coast across the length of the United Kingdom. He is happy to give any survival advice but the first to benefit will be his partner Charlotte Ryall as this will be her first Le Jog, taking on the role of ‘Rookie’ navigator. “We’ve covered thousands of miles recently on 12 car rallies and the Beaujolais Run to try and get Charlotte used to the cold, but it’s such hard work in the rain. You have to try and make it as easy as possible for the navigator,” advised Elliott.
If this is a huge challenge for the teams, imagine what the hundreds of officials and volunteers go through over the length of the country to make the event happen! An army of marshals, medics and technicians keeping the show on the road. Remote locations, manning controls in the middle of the night, trying to keep warm, dry and insulated such as in the sub zero 2017 event.
Regularities such as the taxing Loch Ness Monster have acquired cult status, over fifty miles at night it had to be cut in length due to a major snow dump last year. Yet Route Finder General Guy Woodcock and his assistant Daniel Pidgeon managed to reroute and issue new instructions in record time to ensure the bulk of the challenge was retained.
The route is enthralling, the best of British topography from Bodmin Moor to Abergavenny, the Yorkshire Dales to Hexham, Kielder Water and onto Fort William finishing in John O’Groats. Add to that the sight and sounds of fabulous classic cars and we have a mix to savour. The variety and internationality is clear in the entry list, a 1969 VW convertible from Germany, a 1971 Datsun 240Z from Holland, a 1976 Audi 80 GTE driven by a Frenchman and navigated by a Belgian. British crews naturally abound, they are in a variety of wonderful cars: Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7, 1964 Ford Consul Capri and even a 1976 Jaguar XJC!
With four tough legs spanning England, Wales and Scotland, the 24th edition of Le Jog promises to retain the description given by the German AutoClassic magazine five years ago as the ‘Toughest classic car event in Europe’. It’s reputation continues to grow across the world.
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