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Mad car disease: London-Brighton run

2013-11-13 08:03

THREE AMIGOS: A trio of legendary Napier racing cars from 1901, line up for the start of the recent London to Brighton Commemoration Run. Image: NEWSPRESS


For the very first time at the annual London to Brighton Race held last week, an event run every year since 1927, saw a 400-strong band of intrepid motorists – headed by a trio of legendary racing Napiers – taking part in the oldest motoring event in the world. Known as the London to Brighton Commemoration Run, it all happened back in 1896 to celebrate the removal of the “Red Flag Act*.”

Although examples of those early competition Napiers have participated in the past, never before have three lined up together, thus recreating the pioneering British team that contested the famous Gordon Bennett Cup ¬races held at the start of the last century.

The very olive green, 6.5-litre Napier (far right) that won the 1902 race between Paris and Innsbruck driven by S. F. Edge headed the trio. It was the first British car to win an international motor race and its distinctive colour was the origin of British Racing Green.


The other two Napiers that lined up in Hyde Park London for this year’s Veteran Car Run, one was powered by a 7.7-litre engine the other by an even more potent 11.1-litre unit – competed in the Gordon Bennett Cup races in 1903 and 1904.

While the three illustrious Napiers grabbed many of the headlines, the 2013 Veteran Car Run also attracted a number of equally exceptional entries all enjoying some unseasonably good weather en route to the coast, such as the 1901 electrically powered Waverley phaeton, driven by Michael Ward.

Should you have one of the early electric models such as The Baker or Waverley that was manufactured in the US, make sure you have planned somewhere along the route a household plug outlet to recharge those batteries, just in case!

Providing your veteran car was manufactured before 1905 you are most welcome to take part. Acceptable body styles would include Sociables, Phaetons, Dog Carts, Voiturettes and Curved Dash types.


The course is 96 km in length and can take anything from three hours to all day to cross the Madeira Drive finishing line on the Brighton beachfront. In no sense of the word could the event ever be construed a race but the camaraderie that goes with the “Brighton” has to be seen to be believed.

Among the famous faces participating was Pink Floyd musician Nick Mason plus Mike Brewer and Edd China, the two presenters of the hit Discovery Channel show Wheeler Dealers. They were aboard a recently restored 1903 Darracq to celebrate the popular programme reaching its 100th car milestone.

Another film star was the Darracq from the classic 1953 movie Genevieve starring Kenneth Moore and Diana Sheridan.

Although not a race, this year’s Veteran Car Run included a competitive event for the very first time in its lengthy 117-year history. A regularity test where contestants have to average a precise speed between two controls has been introduced in 2013 with the 1902 Mors of Philip Oldman taking the inaugural trophy.


The first car to cross the ceremonial finish on Madeira Drive on the seafront in Brighton was the 1902 Darracq of Allan White. In total 341 of the 385 starters completed the symbolic 60-mile journey from Hyde Park to the sunny Sussex coast before the 4.30pm deadline, thus receiving a much-coveted finisher medal.

*The London to Brighton Commemoration Run, staged specifically as a non-profit making veneration, commemorates the Emancipation Run of November 14 1896, which celebrated the Locomotives on the Highway Act.

That Act raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from the equivalent of 6.4km/h to 19.6 m/h, and abolished the need for them to be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag. The Emancipation Run was first re-enacted in 1927 and has taken place every November since, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol was rationed in the UK.

Read more on:    england

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