Is this the slowest car race in the world?
Remember when a man waving a red flag was required to walk in front of every motor vehicle on the road? No, neither do I, you would need to be over 126 years old to remember those days! I'm sure you'll agree though that the abolition of that law is cause for celebration, and so it was. The first "Emancipation Run" was held in 1896 to celebrate the recently passed locomotives on highways act which raised the speed limit from 4mph to a staggering 14mph and abolished the requirement for that man with the flag. 126 years on and the event still commences with the ceremonial tearing of the red flag.
Only pre 1905 vehicles qualify for the event which is not so much a race as a challenge to arrive at ones destination at all! The line up included nearly 400 cars, several motorcycles and even 2 penny farthing cycles! Competitors set off from Hyde park at dawn, taking in some of London's most famous sites before heading towards Brighton using country lanes.
120 different marques of car took part, many that are still well known today like Cadillac, Renault, Vauxhall and Mercedes. Some were less well known, like the Mors driven by TV personality Alan Titchmarsh, or the De Dion Bouton driven by Fuzz Townsend of Car SOS fame.
The TV personalities weren't the only familiar faces among the veteran car parade though. If you followed my updates from last month's Carrera Panamericana then you might also recognise Angelica Fuentes Garcia. Angie hot footed it back from the Mexican road race hailed as the most dangerous in the world to take part in the, somewhat slower paced, British road race. It certainly presented a very different set of challenges for her and husband Keith. Their car, a 1904 orient Buckboard, didn't even have a steering wheel, instead using a forward facing tiller. Though technically not a race, teams must reach Brighton by 4.30pm to qualify as finishers. Angie and Keith arrived in plenty of time at 3.10pm, despite many refuelling and oil change stops. Not bad for a 4 bhp, single cylinder aircooled engine!
Many of the cars, and teams, sported moustaches in recognition of event partner, men's health charity, Movember. The veteran cars proved surprisingly reliable with nearly 90% crossing the finish line within the scheduled time. Proof, if it were needed, that British eccentricity is alive and well.
Sadly though, this years event was marred by the death of an 80 year old competitor who left the marshalled route and strayed on to the M23 motorway, colliding with a car on the carriageway.