Welcome to Le Jog – Land’s End to John O’Groats Classic Car Event. Since the first running of Le Jog in 1993, the event has become an enigma as well as one of the most demanding regularity rallies around. Le Jog is different from other traditional rallies as there are no overall awards, competitors have to achieve a certain standard of excellence at every control point. If they do not meet the required standard, they lose Gold Medal status and slip to Silver. To maintain Gold Medal status is a huge achievement. The event starts at Land’s End at 07:30 on Saturday the 9th of December and reaches John O’Groats around 10:15 AM on Tuesday the 12th of December. In this time crews will average 18.3 miles per hour even when asleep or eating, Le Jog requires stamina, mental agility and endurance an a never give up attitude. Pit this against some of the most demanding roads and conditions in the UK and you can see why this event is so difficult to achieve Gold.
LeJog 2017 – Event Report
Welcome to the start of the 2017 running of Le Jog – Land’s End to John O’Groats in what looks to be a ‘white running’ of the event, we are anticipating snow as we reach higher ground and a return to the conditions that makes the event so challenging.
Starting out from Land’s End, crews were straight into the traditional first test in the grounds of the Land’s End hotel, a twisting and meandering section of road that clings to the headland with the Atlantic raging away below. First away was the 1954 MG A Coupe of long-time Le Jog fanatic, Horst Pokroppa who was partnered this year by Arno Bauschert. The minute after brought another Le Jog stalwart to the line, John Kiff, winner of the first Gold Medal as navigator swapped seats to drive his Brother, Rob in their well-campaigned Beetle, as well as being a past-competitor, John has also been the Clerk of The Course on Le Jog. Quickest out of the blocks were Thomas and Roger Bricknell in their VW Golf GTi hotly pursued by Tomas de Vargas Machuca/Ali Procter in their Porsche 911, third quickest were Richard Isherwood/Ian Canavan in their Nissan Stanza, the effort on the tests weighing heavily on the vehicle’s clutch and leaving them with a nagging doubt about it failing.
A transit section took crews via Crows-an-Wra and the Blind Fiddler standing stones past Penzance and into the village of Crowlas where the first regularity of the event, named ‘Shiver me Timbers’, settled crews into the event. Presented in true Le Jog fashion, this section instructed crews to follow the route via various spot heights, the first timing point there to catch the unwary who didn’t follow the instructions exactly, unusually, crews were instructed to “Take the longest route” in a grid square which resulted in a long-way-round triangle near Marazion Caravan Club. Heading north past the ancient earth workings at Gurlyn a slot left into Treven lane brought up the second timing point on a nadgery bit of road that didn’t read as per the map. The final timing point was a more straight-forward affair to the south-east of St Erth Praze, Bill Cleyndert/Dan Harrison cleaned the section totally in their Mini Cooper S with Mark Godfrey/Martyn Taylor pushing them hard with just one-second lost. De Vargas Machuca/Procter posted another fine performance to end the section on two-seconds. It wasn’t all plain sailing on this regularity though as Tony Clark/Brian Neill found out, a little bit of over-enthusiasm saw them visit the scenery within 500 metres of the regularity start. It was an early bath for Tony Sheach/Rachel Wakefield as their fire breathing Triumph 2000 proved too powerful for its’ clutch and cried no more after just 25 miles.
A longer road section along the A30 passed some familiar names of Le Jog’s gone by – but not after two tests at Cornwall College Isherwood/Canavan set the standard for the first test here with Owen Turner/Bob Blows hot on their heels in their nimble 998cc Mini. It was here that Isherwood/Canavan experienced further clutch issues dropping them down the order a little and making their Gold Status a little unsure. The third test saw the Bricknells’ battling with Turner/Blows whilst a charging Mark Godfrey/Martyn Taylor were pressing hard. On past Indian Queens and into Lanivet, once famed for supplying bamboo shoots to London Zoo to feed their Pandas, this is in evidence on the Lanivet Inn’s crest which hangs outside the wonderful community pub. Refreshed and watered, crews headed to the start of regularity two, Bodmin, nestled on the lower edges of the famous moor and it was here that Route Coordinator Daniel Pidgeon unleashed his own ‘Beast of Bodmin’ on the event. The area here has a series of not as map loops and triangles which Pidgeon exploited to their fullest, starting off on the edge of Long Downs, the first loop going long way round close to Cardinham Castle. Onto unfenced roads that climbed and descended Troslea Downs, and took in the first white of the event at Welltown; the route for this section was defined by a 200-metre blackspot with map references that also had approach and depart directions attached. The sting in the tail came at TP1/2C with some intricate plotting that dropped crews into the Loveny Valley on a narrow and sinewy piece of asphalt that had a double hairpin, the second one being incredibly steep uphill. Those who missed the plot here ended up in a loop that didn’t match the Jogularity instructions and caused a few issues for some crews, not for Cleyndert/Harrison who were imperious here. Other great performances came from de Vargas Machuca/Procter and Thomas Koerner/Stephan Huber in their brightly-coloured BMW 3 Series The fourth and penultimate timing point came just after Ashford Bridge, a steep downhill into junction slot right taking time from the crews before the final control close to Bokenna Cross and end of regularity.
Another transit section gave those taking part in Le Jog 2017 time to catch their breath and take in the scenery of Cornwall for the final time as Le Jog crossed the River Tamar into Devon. There was an easy A Road option but route adherence was enforced with a secret check at Gulworth Through Tavistock and climbing Dartmoor to Two Bridges where another welcome break was taken before attempting the third regularity, Dartmoor. Once again, the use of loops and triangles kept crews entertained, presentation was via map symbols once again in tandem with the Jogularity instructions; starting close to Clapper Bridge and climbing hard up Sherberton Common, a loop that took in the multiple-junction intersection at Foxworthy took crews via Leusdon and Corndon Ford Farm before the unfenced section on Cornndon Tor. this gave way to a climb to East Shallowford and a run over Wind Tor before crossing the East Webourne River at Higher Dunstone. The climb here to the third timing point was intense, this wasn’t the final action of the section though as a further two controls were scheduled before the end of regularity. The last being a truly inspired turning into a farmer’s yard where a track ran parallel to the route and caught Tony Jardine/Nick Cooper, Derek Skinner/Pete Johnson amongst many others.
Exeter Racecourse ended an extremely busy morning with lunch followed by two tests based in the complex, the first test was the longer of the two and saw great performances from James O’Mahoney/Frank Hussey and Simon Mellings/Karl Ellis. The second test of the brace saw no less than eight crews set the standard with equal times! Passing Honiton and heading further along the A30 a regularity in the foothills of the Blackdown Hills came next. This was designed to test the crews and was given as a Jogularity handout when leaving Exeter Racecourse. Named, funnily enough ‘Blackdown Hills’, this five timing point 15-mile section would start to ramp-up the pressure on the competitors with a stunning section. Taking place to the south-east of Smeatharpe and Churchinford, this regularity would be the final one in Devon, a trio of tests followed at Smeatharpe airfield but the topography and lanes used meant that this was the sternest test crews had faced so far. An innocuous start to the section climbed up Rover Hill and then descended a little into the Yarty Valley, the first timing point was close to the junction of the A30 at Four Elms, an easy to miss slot between a house and a hedge that led down a white marked as ‘unsuitable for motor vehicles’. The route here is overgrown with hedges and uninviting for those new to Le Jog, however, this is a classic example of a Le Jog timing point and accurate navigation was required to hit this point on time. passing over Manning’s Common and Stopgate brought up the third timing point near Churchinford, this loop in typical west country lanes was incredibly narrow and made progress difficult for many crews, in fact, the route is so narrow that it doesn’t feature on Google’s Street View! The penultimate timing point posed no real issues but the fifth and final control was another Le Jog gem. The instruction was ‘Junction turn left’, nothing difficult about that but in fact there were two junctions a matter of yards apart, the second being definable as a stop, give-way and would have had that instruction if that was the intended slot. Situated just before this stop, give-way was a track onto an old airfield which was the correct route, a slippery concrete section that looped back onto the B Road hid a timing point behind some rubble that couldn’t be seen from the main road. Crews taking the main road were oblivious to the point unless they were fortunate to see a car exiting from the old airfield.
The traditional transit section up the M5 Motorway followed the tests at Smeatharpe, passing through Somerset and onto the M48 into Wales, a test at the Severn View Services saw the Ford Escort Mexico of Mike Tanswell/Andy Ballantyne retire with gearbox maladies, similarly, Robert and Sue McClean lost overdrive on their Rover making the link sections incredibly tedious for them . The first passage check of the evening came at The Star Inn near Llansoy, now in darkness and with weather being forecast for heavy snow the night section and leg two were shaping up to be very interesting indeed. The final action of leg one was another 15-mile regularity section that started close to Kingcoed, navigation here was via letters, 26 points were plotted on a map and the crews were instructed to follow the route by spelling WALES. Despite the straightforward navigation, the lanes and countryside here are notoriously tricky with some of the sections being so narrow and nadgery that they aren’t easy for the navigator to call to the driver. Passing through Coed-y-Fed and Dingeston, the first couple of timing points didn’t prove too troublesome, but after the third control, the route took on a more undulating feel, the narrow lanes sometimes shrouded by trees and in the icy weather they were incredibly slippery. The final timing points were close to Treadam and saw Skinner/Johnson slip off the road, re-styling the nearside wing of their Porsche 356. The treacherous conditions also caught out O’Mahoney/Hussey who clipped the front wing of their Volvo, with just one functioning headlight the Irish duo called it a day and retired.
This closed the first leg and a well-earned two-hour break was taken at The Hog’s Head at Treadam, the next report will be posted on Sunday morning as crews depart from Ewloe, near Chester. It’s been an epic start to Le Jog and we are sure that the night section to come will be equally as tough and enthralling.
Leg two – leaving the warmth of The Hog’s Head and into the stillness of the Welsh night, the weather conditions turned against the crews as we headed into the heart of rural Wales.
Starting deep in mid-Wales, regularity two of leg two used the maze of lanes north-west of Builth Wells, again, situated in the Wye Valley This was a relatively low affair over 14.31 miles and five timing points set around Llanafan-Fawr which the regularity used as its’ name. Heading ever further north and after a stop for fuel at Llanwrthwl, this was an easier section, probably the least testing section of the night before another regularity and the TC Section.
The start to regularity four was just outside Llanidloes off the B4518 north to Cerrist with a series of gradient arrows and Jogularity to direct competitors on the correct route. The first timing point was a humdinger, turning hairpin left off the B4569 at Dolgwden, crews were met with a steep climb to a hairpin right and 50 yards or so later after the hairpin was the timing point. This is Welsh rallying heartlands, the lanes are narrow and have blind crests on them that are almost always followed by a sharp bend to catch the unwary out.
A time control at Mallwyd allowed for fuel and some energy drinks to be consumed for a few of the crews, the fatigue really kicking in now with incredibly slippery conditions hampering progress for the crews.
The final section of leg two was a monster, 10 time controls with two passage checks to find over 20 miles, in the weather we are experiencing this was going to really sort out the crews. Leaving petrol at Glan-yr-afon the first time control was on a road to the right of the A494 and would loop back towards Maerdy and Four Crosses the road again at Pen-y-bont, climbing Mynydd Rhyd ddu the narrow road here was very slippery and the descent into Bettws Gwerfil Goch was entertaining to say the least. Melin-ywig followed before a climb up Glasfryn to Cwm and Maes Truan came before the last three controls of the section at Fron Goch and Deio. Top crews on the night were Thomas and Roger Bricknell along with Tony Jardine/Nick Cooper with both crews showing stellar skill and determination.
We enter leg three with just six crews holding Gold Medal Status, five on Silver and four on Bronze. Looking out of the window here in north Wales, it could be a very interesting and white day…
Leg Three – With just five and three-quarter hours rest, the first crews left the overnight halt at Ewloe from 09:01 onwards, the quiet Sunday morning spent traversing the M56 to the first test of the day at Lymm services, onwards to Preston via the M6 and a test just off the motorway near Red Scar Industrial Estate. This is industrial Lancashire and it felt a million miles away from the icy and sinuous lanes of North Wales last night.
A welcome coffee break followed by a third driving test at the wonderful Myerscough College gave a brief respite, Myerscough are quite unique in as well as being one of the largest agricultural colleges in the UK, they also have a thriving motor sport academy here that is training the race mechanics of the future. A short drive up the A6 through Bilsborrow and Brock brought the first regularity of the day into view. The lanes here a little wider in places than those found in Wales and this would be a relief for many, typically bread and butter night rallying lanes, they are often unfenced and roll along moorlands with many crests or brows to hop over. The regularity started at the rear of a famous rallying venue of old, Rogers’ of Brock. From here it went via Barnacre and Oakenclough before a run over Harrisend Fell, the views towards the Lake District and Morecambe Bay stunning with the mountains wearing their white caps. A tight and nadgery section through Street bypassed the magnificent Wyreside Hall before climbing Yates towards Catshaw Fell. This route is a well-known section and has been used on many events, notably so the RAC Rally in the 50’s and 60’s where it was a favourite because of where the next timing point was situated, just after the infamous Abbeystead Hairpin. Quietly through Abbeystead and on to Jubille Tower was the next section before descending the sheep-strewn Hare Appletree Fell to Quernmore.
Two driving tests followed, one just outside Kirkby Lonsdale at Dan Willan’s coach yard and another in a car park at JUmpers, just outside Cowan Bridge. This led to a longer link section that went via Ingleton, Ribblehead and Widdale Fell before lunch at Simonstone Hall. Despite Sunday being defined as an easier day, there was still some pressure being applied to the crews as the regularities were being stretched out over some truly demanding roads, the next test would be another epic 24-mile section over Buttertubs, infamous for being not as map the first section climbs some 190 metres over two and a half kilometres of Abbotside Common before descending through Buttertubs to the first timing point Under Hood Rigg. Dropping into Thwaite and heading north through Keld , a right turn over the River Swale to head due north and find the second timing point at Stonesdale. This was situated after a steep climb passing Tan Hill, the highest pub in the UK, the roads held a fair amount of snow from the previous week and made conditions slippery for the crews Heading north west towards Brough and then a right over Mouldy Mea, an old Roman signal station brought Le Jog to the triangular loop at Palliard where the fourth timing point was situated. The navigation on this section was via gridlines and jogularity, the triangle being defined by no less than five gridlines to keep things interesting. Dropping down to Brough Sowerby and the end of regularity, this was a welcome sight for many as the roads had been difficult to make progress on because of the recent ice and snow.
A long link section gave crews time to breathe and some stunning views of the Lune Forest as they headed to Middleton-in-Teesdale, Tyne Head and Newberryside dropped us into Alston where none other than Father Christmas was waiting to greet the crews and flag them away from The Crossing Cafe situated in the railway station. Two further regularities took us into the Scottish Borders with the second of the two being the longer offering, starting east of Brampton, the first section dropped crews over the River Irthing and past Lanercost to the first timing point at Banks. A section of straight road followed before a loop around Walton Woodhead, the route taking in the white at Swailes, the entry being easy to overshoot as it is under the cover of trees, crews were further challenged as we were now in the dark making navigation and route finding difficult. A longer section of some 17 minutes to the next control ensued over the twisting and narrow road over Low Park, the roads here being fairly flat but with many not as map corners to keep crews on their toes. The third timing point was situated on a 90 Left behind an old barn at Stockastead .With the cover of darkness meant that the route planners pulled out all the stops to take time from the crews as the next section went via Croft and onto the track and Ford at Holmehead, the timing point just after the Ford, naturally! Heading north through Kershope the final timing point in England was situated at Kershope Bridge and although not too tricky to see it did manage to take time from. A short trip into Scotland saw the last timing point situated right on the border once again, this time on the Scots side of Kershope before the end of regularity was reached by a kilometre section of road in England. We go into the final two legs with several crews able to achieve Gold Status if they keep their cool in the heat of battle and the icy conditions.
Leg four, we’re in Scotland and have 587 miles to go, yes, you read that right, 587 miles. The next two legs would take us through some of the most remote and scenic roads in Scotland, however, we were hearing that some roads would have ice and snow to make progress challenging, it was something that brought a little fear but excitement to the crews. Leaving Peebles it was difficult to grasp the mammoth task ahead for some of the crews, we had already had several retirements and 41crews left the re-start.
A straightforward regularity to wake the competitors took place before skirting Edinburgh and crossing the new Forth Road Bridge, a test at Lochgelly Drift Circuits saw Clarence and Kate Westberg flying in the Arrive and Drive MG B and some spectacularly sideways moments from Keith Jenkins/Dan Middle and Martin Hoermann/ Jochen Hempel. A short trip to the Bus Museum at Balmule named ‘Watch the pots’ to remind Clerk of The Course, Guy Woodcock of his misdemeanour with some flower pots there a couple of years ago…
The second regularity of the day was another straightforward offering named Loch Glow, this would use lowland forestry lanes as its backdrop before finishing close to Loch Leven nature reserve. Navigation was by Jogularity with a small square of map presented to aid crews along the route. Heading north and into more interesting territory, the final test of leg four was held at the Edinchip Estate and proved to be very demanding with its loose surfaces providing the drivers with some really demanding conditions to get their teeth into. Lunch was taken at a Le Jog favourite, the Killin Hotel before what would turn out to be one of the sternest challenges of the day, a four timing point 12-mile section over the notorious Bridge of Balgie. The weather was horrible at height which had made the road surfaces incredibly slippery, this wasn’t helped by the recent incoming snow that made the section so difficult to maintain speed. Navigation wasn’t difficult, however the first timing point was there to check accurate navigation and use of the crews’ tripmeters. Situated on an unmarked triangle, the more experienced navigators pre-guessed that this would be a timing point due to the instructions coming so close together. Further along the road crews came across Lawers Dam at Lochan na Lairige which was built in 1956 to serve the crofters of the area with power. How tough an existence it must have been for these hardy folk, their crofts or ‘Shielings’ as they are called can still be seen scattered across the hillside in various locations. Dropping down the valley between Meall nam Maigheach and Creag Dhubh, the second timing point appeared at Milton Eona where the road changes character totally from the previous two timing points. Following the course of the River Lyon, a further three timing points challenged the crews with. Several crews couldn’t complete the section with one of the more notable ones being Kevin Haselden/Bart den Hartog and Richard Harrison/Peter Boyce
Le jog 2017 was now in darkness for the final time and a link section that took crews via Loch Tummel and Pitlochry before reaching the Passage Check in the Kirkmichael Hotel, the onset of darkness made the roads feel particularly eerie as they were bathed in white from previous snowfall, the light reflecting off crews’ headlights as they made their way through the peaty blackness of the Scots night towards the next regularity near Balmoral. It was here that a re-route had to be implemented due to the heavy snowfall that came in unexpectedly. Crews arriving early at Hilton Coylumbridge. Huge thanks to the marshals who were early on the controls and advised us of the front passing through dropping heavy snow. Our fully-equipped Mitchell Group ŠKODA UK Scout advance cars were awesome and passed through some horrible conditions with ease. A pre-planned reroute was put in place and only a couple of regularities were lost.
The final action of the night would take place in Abernethy Forest, three timing points that were defined by passing through certain letters that were on the map, in addition to this there were instructions to go long way round in two grid squares, the second long way round disguising the first timing point. Heading deeper into Abernethy Forest via Torehill Cottage brought timing point two, this was a long way round triangle that was shown on the Jogularity instructions. The final control was situated close to the Osprey Centre at the entrance to Loch Garten and was the last timing point of the leg also. The section was enjoyed by the majority of the crews with fresh snow making the trip through Nethy Forest feel like a mini-Monte.
We are now at the Hilton Coylumbridge and will re-start at 00:15.
The final leg was set on the north-eastern coast of Scotland and had the luxury of an extra hour’s break for crews before departing to attempt the first regularity section of the night, the mini-monster or baby Nessie as it was being called. The route had to be modified due to the heavy snowfall earlier in the day and with foresight and pre-planning, Clerk of The Course Guy Woodcock and his team re-routed the event losing the fore end of the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ regularity section.
Re-named Loch Ness (mini) Monster, it was still 22 miles long and with the deep snow proved a truly demanding test of both driver and navigator, starting at the hairpins close to Fairgaig Forest the route looped through the narrow maze of lanes south of Loch Ruthven. Navigation was via jogularity and map with the average speed in the high twenties, crews had to press-on to stay on time.
The second regularity was a much gentler offering starting north west of Alness at Dalreoch Wood the roads here still with a covering of hoar frost to catch unwary or ill-prepared crews. The first timing point came up at White Hill and was situated at a three way junction, the next was just after the village of Badachonacher and included an easy to miss loop on a narrow yellow close to lBadachonacher Moss. A longer section over Scotsburn and Marybank brought the third and final timing point to the north-west of Logie Hill, Godfrey/Taylor were piling on the pressure after regaining their Gold Medal status and putting in some binary performances at controls. John and Robert Kiff were having a storming run in their Beetle and were well out in front of the nearest competitors in their class for honours, but would they hold on over the next few sections?
A looping section in the Evelix Valley took crews onto the Black Isle with clear skies over the Dornoch Firth making standing up on the road tricky as temperatures plummeted to minus 9 degrees, this was a straight-forward section that didn’t cause too many issues, but from here onwards things were set to get much trickier. Golspie Kart Circuit hosted the very final driving test of the event with conditions making getting to the circuit trickier than the test itself!
Named Knockarthur, the fourth regularity encompassed just under thirty miles over five timing points set on the sinewy lanes, adding to the challenge of ice were the local population of Deer who were adept at walking out in front of competitors, seemingly fearless of cars. The second timing point would prove pivotal for the Kiff Brothers, a mis-read instruction saw them miss the turning into the second timing point in a lay-by on the Bridge of Horn costing them their Gold Medal that they had held for just over 1400 miles.
Heading north up to Thurso and a well-deserved breakfast brought the last regularity of the event at Mayfield south-east of Thurso. All was going well for Andy Lane/Iain Tullie who had hardly put a foot wrong all event, local traffic delayed them along the section and although it didn’t cost them a medal, it handed the lowest-points bragging rights to Godfrey/Taylor.
Emotions were high as crews crossed the finish line at John O’Groats, Pipers Alastair and Michael providing the skirl of the pipes as bright blues skies and a very gentle breeze made the last white covered hours seem a long time away. First to cross the line were David Hankin/Jake Ramsden in their re-styled Triumph TR4. A coming together on the final leg meant they decided to cut to the finish, Jake with a lump in his throat thinking that they were so close to a medal.
This running of Le Jog will be remembered as a truly epic event that managed to navigate from tip to tip of the United Kingdom, in truly testing conditions for crews. It will also be remembered for the camaraderie of the crews who selflessly stopped to help others (including members of the public) who were in difficulty. HERO would like to thank the army of marshals who stood out in difficult conditions, without them we couldn’t run the event.