Unseasonably mild conditions and a new route out of London combined to make the 2018 Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run a hugely successful instalment of the world's longest-running motoring event.
Nearly 400 competitors were up early for the pre-dawn start near Hyde Park Corner in London this morning, with an impressively large number of spectators also setting their alarm clocks in order to wave them off.
The event celebrates the passing into law of the Light Locomotives on the Highway Act of 1896, which raised the speed limit from 4 to 14mph and abolished the need for a man to walk in front of light vehicles with a red flag. The first motoring club commemorated the act by driving the 60 miles from London to Brighton, and 122 years on it's still going strong.
The oldest car on this year’s run, and the first away, was a two-cylinder 2.5 HP 1893 Peugeot driven by Alessandro Rossi di Schio from the Museo dell'Automobile in Turin, Italy.
This year, for the first time, the entrants took two routes out of central London to avoid traffic congestion on the open road, with half taking the usual course over Westminster Bridge and out via Streatham and the other half travelling over Lambeth Bridge and out via Clapham. The two routes merged near Croydon to resume the traditional journey towards Brighton, passing through Crawley on the way.
Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club and himself a competitor in a 1901 Mors, said, “The spilt routes out of London have definitely alleviated the traffic problem of recent years, making a more pleasant and safer journey for everyone.”
With 117 different makes of car taking part – all built before 1905 – there was no shortage of variety in the field this year.
In addition to the array of single-, twin- and four-cylinder internal combustion-engined cars, steam and electric power were also well represented, with Duncan Pittaway’s 1896 Salvesen steamer and a 1902 Columbia electric built in Hartford, Connecticut among the entrants.
Nor was the Columbia the only Victorian-era vehicle to have made it all the way from the United States, either, with 20 others entering making the trip across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, other veterans came from as far afield as Argentina, Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa.
With unseasonably mild weather the drivers, many of them without even a windscreen for protection from the elements, arrived at the halfway point in Crawley High Street in good spirits.
After 60 miles the first car arriving in Brighton was the 1902 Oldsmobile of Andres Melkus from Austria, travelling past the spectacular Royal Pavillion and over the seafront finish line on Madeira Drive at around 10.23am. The remainder of the field then steadily made their way to the finish line over the next six or so hours, with just 10% of the competitors failing to complete the event before the 4.30pm deadline.
Red Bull Formula One team principal Christian Horner was one of those to complete the Run, driving Irvine Laidlaw’s 1904 four-cylinder Panhard et Levassor. “The car ran seamlessly,” he said. “It’s such a great event, I’ll definitely be back.”