Brooklands will provide the historic motorsport backdrop for the start of the adventurous 2000 mile London Lisboa rally on Friday 26th April as 50 classic rally machines take the start in front of the original circuit clubhouse and control centre.
Fittingly the car starting as number one is the Bentley 4.5 litre Le Mans of Simon Arscott and Andy Wilson, which will be right at home in the essentially ‘Racing Green’ British motorsport surroundings.
Ahead of the crews are ten days and 3225 kilometres of regularities and tests as the event winds its way to the south coast via Portsmouth and then over to France, Spain and Portugal, with crews making their way through the Pyrenees where snow is a distinct possibility.
The route will be followed via tulip road books with no map plotting required. A relief to some but an encouragement to many international crews who prefer using the tulip system road books with directions and distances to be followed rather than the task of continually plotting map references.
From the Brooklands startline crews will go straight into the first test with the famous 30-foot high historic banking in the background of the race track that was constructed in 1907. That was the same year the first ever Peking Paris rally started. The latest 2019 ERA edition of Peking Paris will start in June this year.
The two and three-quarter mile outer Brooklands circuit was known as the ‘Ascot of Motorsport’ in it’s heyday, with two long straights, plus the famous banked curves, some of which survive today for HERO London Lisboa competitors from 12 countries to marvel. However, many of the crews who are interested in the history of the sport have also come to know Brooklands, not just as a centre of motoring innovation but also for aviation, where all types of aircraft remain on display at the 32-acre site.
Those were adventurous days and this is an adventurous event which many are looking forward to.
Jayne Wignall who will be navigated by Kevin Savage in her 1965 4.2 litre Sunbeam Tiger is preparing to enjoy the challenge, “I am really looking forward to Spain and Portugal as I haven’t rallied there before, it’s good to go to new territories and there is the possibility of snow in the Pyrenees. The last time we were out in the Tiger was through the South of France to Marrakesh.”
Drexel Gillespie from Northern Ireland who is also in a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger with his wife Pat navigating, has already started his adventure early with an accident! “I was just putting some oil into the engine when an almighty gust of wind blew the oil all over me and the cam covers, then the bonnet crashed onto my head!” With just a small cut to his head to show for it, Drexel cleaned himself and the Tiger’s engine up before continuing, “and if there is snow, I’ve got four new tyres at fifty pounds a piece, so bring it on!”
The Swiss are well represented on the London Lisbon with six crews amongst the fifty cars which have come from as far afield as New Zealand!
Swiss Daniel Gresly who was in contention for the 2018 HERO Cup up until a difficult Rally Of The Tests and LeJog at the end last year, is back being navigated by top lady navigator and Golden Roamer Award runner up, Elise Whyte in his Porsche 911.
“We are really looking forward to a great event, this my first of 2019 after a good year in 2018. France will be good but then the Pyrenees will be great, although we have some very strong competition.” Daniel went on to tell us that, “I have persuaded some of my friends and neighbours from Switzerland to take part, and it’s their very first rally!”
Christiane Leupold and Veronika Karrer, friends of Daniel, will be driving a 1967 4.7 Ford Mustang Cabrio in their first event, “Daniel kept saying we really should try classic car rallying and then he said he had one space left on the transporter, so we agreed to do it!”
Veronika added; “we have trained for this, we are ready, and the Mustang is ready, we just need to find our cowgirl hats!”.
There is another Mustang on the event in the form of a muscular 1966 Shelby Mustang GT35H of Americans Karl Eisleben and Joan McCabe, which looks seriously mean, also sporting Hertz on the number plate as a tribute the original high spec Shelby cars which were on the Hertz hire list in 1966, although not for long after many hirers used them for more than just road transport!
Golden Roamer champion navigator 2018, Scotsman Ian Canavan, is competing in a Porsche 911 after a successful point scoring outing in the HERO Three Legs of Mann albeit in a different car; “the Three Legs of Mann proved to be a good result for myself and Richard Isherwood with a tenth place, then I was in a Mk 1 Golf Gti, now I’m back in a white Porsche but it’s not the 2018 championship winning car of Paul Bloxidge’s white 911, it’s the Porsche of Stephen Owens.”
Stephen Owens is fresh from his excellent result on the ERA Flying Scotsman in his Jaguar SS100 with navigator Nick Cooper. Both Stephen and Ian are looking forward to a fruitful first event together as driver and navigator, but both agreed it will be “competitive!”
It doesn’t happen often, but HERO events are also delighted to see that one of their valued sponsors is moving to the front line by taking part in the event!
Stephane Gutzwiller of Private Bankers Gutzwiller & Cie will be navigated by Keith Gapp in a Fiat X1/9, all at HERO wish them a great event!
Words by Tony Jardine
Photos by Will Broadhead