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Little Classics News: 4 November 2013

Legendary Napiers Lead the Charge from London to Brighton

London to Brighton NapiersLondon to Brighton HarrodsThe London to Brighton car run is not just an annual event, but part of automotive history, having its roots go back to 1896. The early days of motoring in the UK were shackled by overly restrictive legislation, creating speed limits of just 4mph.

The change in this legislation in 1896 was celebrated by a symbolic car run from the Metropole Hotel in Central London to the Metropole Hotel of Brighton.

Although the start position has been Hyde Park since the 1930, the run still very much commemorates the original run. For 2013 the run saw hundreds of vintage cars make it to London and successfully set of on one of the world’s most famous and the longest running motoring celebrations.

For the very first time, the field of close to 400 extraordinary machines all dating back to before 1905 was headed by a trio of legendary racing Napiers.

Although examples of these early competition cars have participated in the past, never before have all three lined up together, thus recreating the pioneering British team that contested the famous Gordon Bennett Cup races held at the start of the last century.

London to Brighton StartThe olive green, 6.5-litre Napier that won the 1902 race between Paris and Innsbruck driven by S. F. Edge headed the trio. It was the first British car to win an international motor race and its distinctive colour was the origin of what became “British Racing Green”. The other two Napiers lining up in Hyde Park London for this year’s Veteran Car Run, one powered by a 7.7-litre engine the other by an even more potent 11.1-litre unit, competed in the Gordon Bennett Cup races in 1903 and 1904.

“Napier’s competition cars from this period are among the most significant cars in the history of British motor sport. They were not only the first to wear British Racing Green, but also the first cars built in this country to win major races overseas thus paving the way for today’s UK-based world championship winning F1 teams such as McLaren and Red Bull,” said Ben Cussons, Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee. “To have three of these incredible machines on this year’s Veteran Car Run was very, very special.”

London to Brighton in LondonWhile the three illustrious Napiers grabbed many of the headlines, the 2013 Veteran Car Run also attracted a number of equally exceptional entries all enjoying some unseasonably good weather en route to the coast. Built in Indianapolis in the USA, the 1901 electrically powered Waverley driven by Michael Ward, Managing Director of Harrods, made its debut. Meanwhile, having had the honour of flagging off the early starters, Sir Ray Tindle embarked on his 50th journey to Brighton driving his faithful single-cylinder 1904 Speedwell Dogcart.

Among the famous faces participating was Pink Floyd musician Nick Mason plus Mike Brewer and Edd China, the two presenters of the hit Discovery Channel show Wheeler Dealers. They were aboard a recently restored 1903 Darracq to celebrate the popular programme reaching its 100th car milestone. Another film star was the Darracq from the classic 1953 movie Genevieve starring Kenneth Moore and Diana Sheridan.

London to Brighton in BrightonAlthough not a race, this year’s Veteran Car Run included a competitive event for the very first time in its lengthy 117-year history. A regularity test where contestants have to average a precise speed between two controls has been introduced in 2013 with the 1902 Mors of Philip Oldman taking the inaugural trophy.

The first car to cross the ceremonial finish on Madeira Drive on the seafront in Brighton was the 1902 Darracq of Allan White. In total 341 of the 385 starters completed the symbolic 60-mile journey from Hyde Park to the sunny Sussex coast before the 4:30pm deadline thus receiving coveted finisher medal.


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