Hundreds of veterans complete annual pilgrimage to Brighton

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Nearly 400 veteran cars lined up in Hyde Park for this year’s Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, with the majority of the cars – some 351 – managing to complete the challenging 60-mile journey. 

This year’s run marked the 120th anniversary of the original Emancipation Run, which was held in 1896 to celebrate the Locomotive on the Highway Act. This raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4mph to 14mph and remove the requirement for a person to walk ahead of the car bearing a red flag. 

The run also marked 130 years since German engineer Karl Benz revealed his Patent Motorwagen – the world’s first automobile. The German theme was supported by Daimler Benz, which entered a number of early Benz and Mercedes cars from its museum in Stuttgart. 

A 1901 Benz Spider was driven by ex-Formula One team boss and racing pundit Eddie Jordan: “What a fabulous experience, it surpassed all my expectations ten fold,” said Jordan. “This equals the best day I’ve ever had in F1. You can’t describe it. Everybody should make the effort to come out and see the Run, or try to participate if they can.

“It’s remarkable just how well Mercedes built these cars. They were great engineers in their time and the fore-runners to what we see in Grands Prix today. In fact, the only thing missing was a heater…”

Fellow Formula One star Ross Brawn once again participated in his 1904 Wilson Pilcher, while fashion model Jodie Kidd took to Harrods’ 1901 Pope Waverley. 

More than 180 entrants took part in this year’s Time Trial, which sees participants attempt to adhere to a strict average speed for the stretch between Crawley and Burgess Hill. The winner was Wolfgang Presinger in his 1904 Covert, who covered the 13 miles at an average speed of 8.05mph – just a whisker over the 8mph target. 

The first car to reach Brighton was a 1903 racing Mercedes driven by Chris Scott from Jersey. The car’s enormous 9.2-litre engine no doubt helped his cause. 

“Once again this remarkable event – the world’s largest gathering of veteran cars and the globe’s bigger free-to-view motoring event – was a huge success, a fitting tribute to the men and machines who first put the world on wheels,” said the Royal Automobile Club’s Peter Read. “The weather was glorious – if a little chilly – this year, and that was a real bonus for spectators, the participants taking part not to mention the volunteer marshalls who, fittingly, make sure it runs like a well-oiled machine. Here’s to next year when the Run will be held on 5 November, ahead of Bonfire Night.”

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