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Stars shine on London to Brighton run

Olympic legend 
Sir Ben Ainslie lead home hundreds of veteran cars on this year’s London to Brighton run.

More than 400 vehicles braved wet and blustery conditions on Sunday, November 2, to complete the run.

The 118th run set out from Hyde Park at day break and headed 60-miles south through London and onto a stormy Sussex coast.

For only the second time in more than half a century, this year’s route took drivers past Buckingham Palace and down The Mall before heading past Big Ben and over Westminster Bridge.

Among those turning back the clock were Olympians Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Ben Ainslie as well as renowned F1 team principal Ross Brawn, multiple Le Mans winner Jochen Mass and TV baker Paul Hollywood.

Before the start Ainslie, Hollywood and Redgrave tore up the red flag –  the symbolic ritual that harks back to the original Emancipation Run, held on 14 November 1896.

That marked the milestone Locomotives on the Highway Act, which raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 to 14mph and abolished the need for a man walking ahead of the cars waving a red flag.

And one of the celebrities was in the first car to reach the ceremonial finish on Madeira Drive, as Lord Irvine Laidlaw’s 1904 Panhard-Levassor hit the Brighton seafront with Ainslie onboard.

‘It was such a pleasure,’ enthused multiple Olympic and America’s Cup champion Ainslie. ‘As a huge car fan it is just very special and a huge privilege to get to ride in a car like this. The atmosphere at the start was fantastic and it was my kind of weather out there – it was a sailor’s day!’

There was high drama for another celebrity as motor racing legend Brawn swapped the high-octane world of Formula One for a rather more leisurely form of transport.

Unfortunately for the motor sport mastermind, his 1904 Wilson Pitcher – the last known surviving British built machine of its kind – had difficulties on its coast-bound run.

‘It was very enjoyable,’ said Brawn. ‘Obviously I don’t get the chance to actually drive the car in most of the automotive work that I’m involved in so that was a nice change. The mixed weather provided an extra challenge and edge but one that we enjoyed very much.

‘We had a broken oil pipe just as we got to Crawley and the RAC Motoring Services volunteer patrolmen did a sterling job. They rescued us by fitting a piece of rubber pipe in the middle of the fractured one and it’s thanks to them that we got here!

‘The whole thing has been wonderful fun. I’d never experienced the sheer enthusiasm for the Run before – from leaving London at that time of the morning, to driving through the villages along the way and then indeed arriving in Brighton itself. It truly has been a wonderful experience.’

Redgrave and Hollywood were also cheered home by the thousands of people lining the streets of the picturesque costal city, as both stars made it to the finish in their respective machines.

‘The first half of our run was reasonably dry and the second half was reasonably wet!’ said Redgrave. ‘The radiator overflowed as we got into Brighton so we made it just in time!

‘Considering the history of all the cars and to see them all lined-up in Hyde Park, it was just sensational to be involved. There was great support along the way, despite the weather, which was also fantastic to see.’

TV judge on the BBC’s Great British Bake Off, Hollywood, was equally enthused. ‘It has been great fun today,’ he said. ‘When the heavens opened half way through it was literally like someone throwing a bucket of water in your face! The run was absolutely exhilarating, however, particularly getting to the top of some of the hills and even tearing past a few people.

‘The marshals, public and volunteers are fantastic people and we were cheered on throughout. I think you get a real sense of achievement when you finish and may be we’ll come back and do it all again next year.’

Another impressive entry was the steam-powered 1888 Truchutet – the oldest car on the run – but this was one of the machines that unfortunately failed to make the finish.

Having been introduced in 2013, the Veteran Car Run now includes a competitive regularity test, where contestants have to average a precise speed between two controls. It was John Kennedy who claimed the honours and glittering trophy in his glorious 1903 Gladiator.

In total, 357 of the starters completed the symbolic 60-mile journey from Hyde Park to the Sussex coast before the 4:30pm deadline, thus receiving a coveted finisher medal.

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