The eagerly anticipated recce for LeJog 2023 has been meticulously planned over the past few months, setting the stage for the unparalleled experience that awaits this December. The driving force behind Legs One and Two was none other than the dynamic Paul Crosby, alongside Guy Woodcock, the Clerk of the Course.
The grand escapade commenced at Lands’ End, where tradition meets thrill with a rugged headland test against the Atlantic backdrop that sets the tone for the exhilarating route ahead.
LeJog 2023 will take a linear route through the stunning landscapes of Cornwall and Devon with three regularities on some new ground and some old favourite tests. Europe’s best endurance regularity trial will pause for a rejuvenating lunch at Exeter before embracing a series of captivating tests that will put crews’ skills to the test. As the afternoon wears on and the light fades on the horizon, there will be two regularities to navigate with the culmination of Leg One at Chepstow. There, a well-deserved two-hour halt awaits, providing the perfect intermission. Paul Crosby was already wondering where the time went.
Paul; “We drove down to Land’s End Hotel, took a selfie at the front, that was the rest halt and then we were off. We drove the rest of that day up until eight o’clock I think it was, or maybe half past eight. We got up as far as Exeter, in fact, I don’t think we even get as far as Exeter on the first day, I was driving all the time, Guy was obviously doing the organising and trying to book a hotel for us when we had a rough idea of where we were going to be. We got into the hotel at 8.30 pm, had a quick eat then a very good night’s sleep!
“And then up again. Guy is a very early riser, as I am actually, but I think he just about pips me! We were on the road again at twenty past six in the morning on the next Leg, up through Wales, which was great. For the record, it was one of the best bits which competitors will love. I can’t remember the name of the place we stayed that night, but you know, somewhere mid-Wales anyway.
“This offer came out of the blue. I got a message from Guy asking me to drive him on the LeJog recce, I’ve never been on a proper recce before and especially not with Guy, so I jumped at the chance as it’s always a great opportunity to see something from the inside. How it all gets put together and how it operates and things that go wrong and what goes right. I have to be honest; it was really enjoyable!”
What Paul was starting to realise was that they had barely scratched the surface, this was just the beginning as they started to recce Leg Two, the heart and soul of LeJog. With five demanding regularities and a daring selection of new roads, some roads that couldn’t be used last time this route was taken due to the snow and ice, this was tough territory. One of the highlights of the route will be the early hours of Sunday morning as teams will savour the thrill of a final TC section, which will bring the LeJog Reliability Trialists, tingling with adrenaline, to the outskirts of Chester still in the wee small hours.
Paul Crosby; “I think it’s a great event and everyone should try it at least once. You need to be well prepared in terms of the places where you can get some sleep and it’s surprising how just closing your eyes and going to sleep for half an hour is a huge boost to your body, your mind as well. So it’s a case of whenever you can, grab some sleep. Yeah, that’s the biggest suggestion. But crews shouldn’t view it as a whole because if you view the whole event going ‘oh my god, we’ve got these long three days ahead of us, loads of regularities and tests and it’s going to be dark and icy’, it will weigh you down. You don’t want to think about that, try to think about the minimum amount ahead of you that you can get away with. When you start a regularity don’t think about the next 20, just the one you are on, try to break it down into manageable bits.
“I think I’ve done it three or four times, but I’ve only had one gold. We were in a gold medal position on a previous LeJog, but various things conspired against us and so only the one gold, and that was a few years back with Andy Pullan.”
After a brief, yet invigorating rest, competitors should be able to greet the Sunday morning of LeJog with renewed energy. A brace of tests and a regularity awaits before the motorway section to the outskirts of Preston for another test and the first coffee break of the day. With the possibility of a winter sun rising higher in the sky, a sweeping and scenic regularity will unfold, showcasing the majestic beauty of the North-West. The adventure continues with a lunch stop at a renowned venue, setting the stage for an afternoon of exhilarating moorland roads. The day’s journey will conclude in Newcastle, where a well-earned night’s rest awaits, preparing LeJoggers for the grand finale that lies waiting to bite them.
Paul Crosby goes on to describe the event as, “Gruelling. it’s really a mental challenge rather than a physical one. The sleep deprivation once you get into the second day, stroke third day is very difficult. It was difficult to cope with, but I think even more so from a navigator’s point of view, because they’re having to concentrate so hard and sort stuff out whereas the driver can be on automatic pilot for a bit. But if you’re the navigator, you’re reading and digesting, giving information all the time, so it’s quite easy to make a slip when you’re very very tired and have been in the car for a long time.
“For many, LeJog will be on their bucket list of things they really want to do. I mean, you have a lot of international teams coming to the UK, such is the reputation and challenge of LeJog. A lot of Germans teams come over and compete, it’s fantastic that you’ve got these different types of people from different countries.
“There are a lot of people around who just love it. I mean, you’ve got Bill Cleyndert, he’ll drive his car down to Land’s End and do the event and then be driving home four days later from Wick and loves every second of it – he really enjoys the endurance element of it. You can see people go back and do it time after time.”
When Monday dawns, teams will find themselves amidst the enchanting landscapes of the Scottish Borders. The northbound journey will be an experience of awe-inspiring routes and vistas that South Scotland is famous for. A hard-earned break at Aviemore will be the chance to catch the breath and try to snatch some needed sleep, as Paul Crosby recommended, before the ultimate leg unfolds.
The first regularity of this leg is the legendary Loch Ness Monster, hopefully not curtailed by snow this year! The energy may be sapping, and some may be struggling, but this is the time to keep it going with the end in sight. The route will now be crisscrossing the A9 up the West coast before arriving at Lybster for a breakfast stop and the chance to physically refuel. A full Scottish breakfast with black pudding and haggis is just the tonic required for the final push.
The reward, mid-morning relief and elation as crews arrive to the welcoming sounds of the piper at John O’Groats.
As well as his sage LeJog advice, Paul Crosby gave us his direct observations from being at the heart of the recce team for the very first time.
“They are long, long, days from six in the morning until eight something in the evening. You drive a lot slower than the rally speed, because I didn’t realise this until I sat in there with Guy, he is actually writing down all sorts of information of what you will see on a Jogularity, gate post on the left, Give Way sign on right. He’s talking distances and scribbling down notes for the instructions on the regularity. it’s a huge amount of work to be doing the distances and landmarks. Every 200 metres or so there is something – it’s a lot of work. I don’t think anyone realises quite what goes into planning and organising one of these events.
“I think just the volume of work was the biggest surprise to me. I knew it was quite a difficult thing to organise, but I didn’t realise just quite what a big task it is. Also, Guy being Guy, he’s always looking. ‘Oh, is that a little track there? Oh, is that on the map? Oh, I reckon we could just loop them through there and they’ll probably miss it, because it’s covered over with all sorts of things’. He’s constantly looking for a little trick, something out of the ordinary that will catch people out. Even though the route has been pre-determined as such before the recce, if he thinks it will make it more challenging he will just change it on the fly, and that’s quite interesting.
“Quite often, it’d be ‘oh, stop, crossover. Just reverse up there, does that go?’ And suddenly he’ll change the route, he’d already been thinking up of tricks on the move. The enormity of the whole thing, not just recording it, but going back with the Competition Team and transcribing all that information into something that you call a road book and then a rally emerges.”
“Now I have been part of behind the scenes, I just think I will stop trying to second guess what the organisers are going to do. Because with Guy in particular, it’ll be a bluff, or it will be a double bluff or a triple bluff. And you never know which one it’s going to be. So, it’s always better to have an open mind and just do what the instructions say. Don’t try and pre-empt it. So that’s just underlined what I sort of knew anyway.
“If anyone asked me where are we going on the first two legs I couldn’t honestly tell them. I know where we start or where we spent the night, but I could not tell you which roads we used. So, you know, people can ask me anything they want but I genuinely won’t be able to answer them!”