Crowds lining the seafront and autumn sunshine greeted the glorious 2011 London to Brighton Veteran Car Run field, on Sunday 6 November, as participants concluded their historic journey at the ceremonial finish line on Brighton’s Madeira Drive.
The 115th anniversary Run was symbolically opened by Jutta Benz driving an 1880s Benz Patent-Motorwagen. The great granddaughter of Carl Benz, Jutta was in attendance as part of the celebrations surrounding the 125th anniversary of the first automobile while Mercedes-Benz, alongside Bosch, joined the event as partner sponsors.
Oliver Wright, aged just 17, led 496 pre-1905 vehicles away from the 75th anniversary start at Hyde Park at official sunrise, 07.02am, driving an 1894 Benz owned by the Ward Collection.
Matt Roberts astride the 1897 Marot Gardon Tricycle was the first to arrive in Brighton an impressive three hours and 25 minutes after leaving Hyde Park in the first sector group. In a remarkable feat for vehicles ranging between 106 and 117 years old, an astonishing 420 Veteran vehicles completed the historic route.
One of Britain’s best loved racing drivers and 1992 Formula One World Champion, Nigel Mansell OBE headlined the celebrity contingent. Helping Mercedes-Benz mark 125 years, Nigel and passenger Mike Penning MP were cheered off by the Hyde Park crowds at 07.36 and arrived to a rapturous welcome from thousands lining the seafront at Brighton early afternoon.
Commenting on his debut Run experience, Nigel said: “Brilliant! Fantastic! I was asked to drive by my friend Mike Penning MP, Minister for Transport. I have to thank Mercedes for letting us have the car, which hasn’t had a hiccup. I grew a beard for the event and for Movember so we’re raising money for good causes as well. This event started so many years ago. It’s a great tribute to the Royal Automobile Club and the organisers. It’s a true testament to what it’s all about. It reminds you how far in history the car has come. It’s astonishing.”
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning MP added: “I was asked to do this by the Royal Automobile Club and I asked if I could choose my own driver – so Nigel’s my chauffeur today! I’ve loved doing it. It’s a piece of history. I’m enormously proud to be British – the cheering on the streets in London early this morning was great. The police were phenomenal too.”
The Royal Automobile Club’s flagship event was honoured to once again host HRH Prince Michael of Kent on the 2011 Run driving a 1903 Daimler entered by The National Motor Museum Trust.
Although the M.M.C. in which TV’s Jon Culshaw was travelling didn’t make the finish on this occasion, Jon still enjoyed his first Run. He commented: “I’ve had a great time! It was lovely to see so many people watching and supporting the event. It has been great to be part of the 115th anniversary celebrations. The only disappointment was not making it to the finish, but I would definitely do it again.”
Arguably Britain’s most popular impressionist, Jon hosted the inaugural Run Gala Dinner introduced by the Royal Automobile Club at the Hilton Brighton Metropole hotel, during which the Club’s Awards were presented including an award to Jutta Benz.
Mini legend Paddy Hopkirk crossed the finish line driving a 1904 Bayard tonneau while the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Susie Burbridge, was a passenger in a 1902 Dennis and commented: “I wish I could be Mayor every year just so I can do this event! The crowd is so enthusiastic – even participants commented on how well organised it is.”
A rare occurrence in the history of the Run, this year’s participants had to detour from the established route due to an incident at Streatham in the early hours of Sunday morning which resulted in a slight delay to arrivals in Brighton.
Vast crowds turned out in support of the world’s greatest and longest running motoring event which last year brought £1.1million to the Brighton economy. Councillor Anne Meadows, Mayor of Brighton and Hove, said: “Today has been a wonderful day for Brighton. The Run always brings in so much to the local community and economy. It’s a privilege to have all these amazing cars coming to Brighton. I’ve had a fantastic day and I hope the participants have all enjoyed themselves.”