With just 40hp and four cylinders, the 1902 Mercedes-Simplex driven by 1992 F1 champ Nigel Mansell this weekend was about as far removed as you could get from the Renault V10-powered FW14B that he drove in his heyday.
The Brummie hotshoe was heading up a celebrity-packed 115th London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, honouring 125 years of Mercedes.
Jutta Benz led the 496 entries off the line at dawn in London’s Hyde Park by driving a replica 1886 Patent-Motorwagen – invented by her great grandfather, Karl – from the start to Westminster Bridge.
Mansell was enthusiastic about his debut on the 60-mile run: “Brilliant! Fantastic! The car didn’t have a hiccup and the run is 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.”
He was joined by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning MP, who added: “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.”
Other motor sport celebrities included Mini legend Paddy Hopkirk, who drove a 1904 Bayard tonneau, while another F1 champion, Damon Hill, took part in the Future Car Challenge, the efficiency-based run from Brighton to London the previous day.
Also taking part on the Sunday was His Royal Highness, Prince Michael of Kent, piloting a 1903 Daimler entered by the National Motor Museum.
Making L2B history was the event’s youngest entrant, 17-year-old Oliver Wright, who was the first non-ceremonial car off the line in the event’s oldest vehicle, a 1894 Benz Victoria.
First to arrive at the Madeira Drive finish was Matt Roberts, astride an 1897 Marot Gardon, who finished in 3 hours 25 minutes. His tricycle was one of 420 cars to complete the run.
See <<London to Brighton Veteran Car Run>> for more.