Words and pictures: Kev Haworth/F & R Rastrelli
The five-day 2016 Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial has been won for a record third time in a row by John Abel, partnered by Iain Tullie in the Lagonda LG45 that helped secure his previous wins. The pair held off a last day charge from Stuart Anderson and Leigh Powley in a Bentley Derby Special to take the victory by just eight seconds. In turn, they managed to resist a strong charge from Sue Shoosmith and Trina Harley to complete a top three that were separated by just eighteen seconds after 1000 miles.
The event began with crews assembling in Edinburgh for documentation and scrutiny on 11 July before competitors were welcomed aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia for a pre-event dinner. The following morning saw competition commence with previous two-times winner Abel leaving the start line at 09:01, heading east out of Edinburgh and into two regularity sections and a driving test before taking coffee at the National Museum of Flight, where crews were treated to the sight of Concorde on display in all her glory.
Going into lunch at Floors Castle, Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan in their MG TB had managed to eke out a lead of one second over Anderson and Powley. Crews then headed into England via The Cheviot Hills and Kielder Water before resting for the night at Slaley Hall, close to Hexham, Northumberland. Three regularity sections and one driving test at Bowhill Estate saw a change in the lead with the Bently of Anderson Powley overhauling Crosby and Pullan overnight.
Wednesday was another 200-mile-plus day, where the route took a dive south via Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle, Bolton Abbey near Skipton and finally the famed Ilkley Moors before reaching the old steel town of Sheffield. The scenery changed from rolling, heather covered moorland in Northumberland to the craggy, limestone-strewn hills and dales of Yorkshire where every valley seemed to have its own microclimate.
Crews were fortunate with the weather, with a few light showers worrying those in open-topped classics. Despite suffering a magneto failure in their Bugatti Type 13 Brescia, Franco and Rubinia Majno were able to source replacement parts to keep them in the running. Another crew with mechanical issues were Seren and Elise Whyte: the sisters once again took part in an Austin Seven, but were forced out of the event for two days due to headgasket problems.
Leaving South Yorkshire and Sheffield behind, the 1000 Mile Trial wound toward the High Peak district before dropping into Derbyshire, Warwickshire and Oxford for the overnight halt. Crosby and Pullan once again regained the lead following a couple of errors from Anderson and Powley. The Lagonda crew of John Abel and Iain Tullie lurked in the third, slowed by a noisy differential that hampered the crew during the driving tests.
Along the route, spectators turned out in force to support the competitors. The village of Boylestone really pushed the boat out and opened the local pub early. Coming into its own at this stage was the Bentley of Sue Shoosmith and Trina Harley, the pair posting a string of fastest times in tests, which saw them propelled up the leaderboard.
The final regularity of the day came through Wychwood Forest and passed ex-Prime Minister David Cameron’s home before the last time control of the day at Blenheim Palace, were crews took afternoon tea in the Orangery ahead of the overnight halt on the outskirts of Oxford.
The penultimate day at Bicester Heritage brought with it much drama. The first test took place in-between the War Department specification buildings from its time as an RAF base, now home to a vast array of vintage and classic cars, motorcycles and aeroplanes. It was twisty and flowing test with a couple of surface changes to test the skill of crews. Rory and Alan Brown set one of the fastest times in their Invicta S Type Low Chassis Tourer after settling into the event and increasing in confidence as it progressed.
The following test was more open and took place on the apron of the airfield. Lying sixth overall going into this test were Stephen Owens and Niall Frost in their Jaguar SS100. Stephen had produced his best result to date, but the team’s luck ran out when a driveshaft snapped, sending the wheel and hub assembly bouncing along the apron.
The drama continued when event leaders Paul Crosby and Andy Pullan started to smell burning from underneath the hood of their MG TB Supercharged. Upon inspection, the distributor had developed a fault and melted some of the wires inside, leaving them stranded at the side of the road and unable to complete the following regularity section. The amassed penalty points saw them plummet down the leader board.
The final day comprised four tests bisected with a regularity section at the Goodwood Race Circuit. Anderson and Powley pressed hard on the final test and clawed back eight seconds from the leading crew of Abel and Tullie, with a late Shoosmith and Harley charge meaning just twelve seconds separated the top three at lunch.
With worries of their car’s failing differential still hampering test performances, Iain Tullie’s class and expertise came to the fore as he put in some outstanding final regularity performances to keep them at the top of the table.
The event drew to a close amid a flurry of drama caused by a wedding procession, which caught the top two teams and propelled the third-placed Shoosmith and Harley pairing into the lead. With an almost unbelievable display of generosity and sporting spirit, the ladies asked for their time to be discounted to leave top three as it was before the obstruction, enabling John Abel to seal his third consecutive win on the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial.