Le Jog 2019 - Final preparations at Land’s End
With 83 cars due to start the 25th Silver Jubilee Le Jog on Saturday morning, feverish preparations have been taking place at the Land’s End Hotel, as crews from ten different countries take their last chance to make adjustments to rally machinery and maps.
Some cars are already in trouble
German brothers Jens and Matthias Dorl’s Ford Sierra 4x4i has had a mysterious left rear wheel noise traced to a worn wheel bearing and were waiting for a new bearing to be despatched. Derek Skinner and Andy Lane’s Ford Cortina GT suffered a broken steering box, a replacement one was being brought down to Cornwall. The German team of Thomas and Marion Herold had an electrical issue that meant their lights didn’t dip properly so they had to fix it and go back to scrutineering to achieve their ‘pass’ certificate.
Not even Jayne Wignall, second in HERO Cup points standings, escaped the pre event gremlins on the way to the event in her Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. “ The journey from North Yorkshire has been a bit of a nightmare. We had electrical issues including having to change the condenser, but it was still not running right. Then at 70 mph in the dark in the middle lane overtaking a lorry we had a puncture, it was a good job it wasn’t a Smart Motorway, we were able to pull off. Then in Taunton the car wouldn’t even start, not even after a tow from my husband Paul. Eventually my ace navigator and mechanic Kevin Savage found it was the distributor cap but the spare wouldn’t fit so we had to get another. We found another tyre today, changed the plugs and here we are - I think Le Jog itself could be easy after this!”
Kevin Savage is charged with the job of navigating Jayne to possible victory in the HERO Cup, if they can get a good result on Le Jog. So how tough will it be? “It’s not a tough job, earlier Le Jogs were mainly endurance, now there are a lot of little niggly navigational tasks. That’s it, so we are just going to get on with it.”
Jayne who has competed in ten previous Le Jogs said; “ I didn’t know we were in second place until my husband Paul told me to look at the championship points! We didn’t compete on RAC Rally of the Tests, it was only after that when we were second that I realised we had a chance of winning the HERO Cup.
“If we do if do well on Le jog we could elevate ourselves back into the lead. Points are awarded for each leg of the event, so in theory we could do badly on one leg but so long as we do well on the other legs, we could still be in with chance. As Le Jog is a difficult event, the points you earn are multiplied by a coefficient factor which may also help.”
As teams prepared for the 25 Anniversary event it was great to welcome back a Land Rover crew who attempted Le Jog ten years ago. Susan Holyoake and Claire Lawson are competing again in their 1950 Land Rover which made it across the line ten years ago but not without problems. Claire; “ We had so many issues and fell so far behind we really want to do a lot better this time, especially as it is the 25th Anniversary.” Although falling behind may still be a bit of an issue as Susan suggested, “our maximum speed is about 45 mph.”
Robert and Susan McClean are competing on their 19th Le Jog in the same car, a Rover P4 100. They have won medals before including golds but think this time it will be even tougher to get into the medals. “We started in 2000 having seen an article in Daily Telegraph. We’d done road rallying before in the 70’s but it said ‘how do you fancy this event called Le Jog?’ We had spent five years building the car, it was this same Rover so we entered and we set off on the adventure, 19 events later were back again! What we’ve learned is it’s a marathon not a sprint, so you have to pace yourself. You have keep moving and press on, but this 25th will be tougher still, so medals will be difficult.” Susan: It’s a fabulous feeling just to make it and get over the line in John O’Groats but getting there and winning gold medals is truly wonderful, it was one of the best moments of our lives.”
Jens and Matthias Dorl managed to resolve their Sierra wheel issue in a garage in Penzance. Jens; “The guy in the garage put the bearing on the table and said, ‘OK now we have some work to do.’ Amazing, because the noise had been a big moment and now it is fixed and it has gone away. Now we have worked hard on the maps and all the information but the 25th Anniversary Le Jog looks like a very tricky one. We have done it before in 2017 so we will find the right way to John O’Groats, it’s going to be fine.”
The Golden Roamer Navigator Award will also be decided this weekend and the man in with a big chance of taking the title is top navigator Roger Bricknell who is driven by his son Thomas in their Golf GTi.
Roger: “ Actually it’s a big ask to do it. I’m told that we have to finish first in class or category on one leg and second on the all the other legs, a tall order but we will give it a go. Thomas; “ We intend to look after the car a bit better this year. Last year we didn’t make it to John O’ Groats so we really need to finish. We have to look after ourselves too. I will look to grab little naps of ten minutes at fuel breaks, it will make a difference. I have brought my ear plugs to help shut out the noise.”
At one of three competitor briefings on Friday HERO Competition Director Guy Woodcock imparted this advice to crews before the grueling event.
“It’s a long event, it’s about consistency and working hard together as a team. We don’t publish overall classification as this is about medals, all about being consistent against other people in your category. Survival plays a big part in such an endurance event, keep hydrated, don’t use energy drinks, they will take you up and then all the way down again very quickly. Bananas, water, tea, coffee and we will feed you when we can.
“If you will get to the finish it will be a massive relief, you will really have achieved something very special.”
Photos by Blue Passion