LeJog 2022 – Leg One
49 cars started LeJog from a dark and blustery Land’s End at 7.30 am on Saturday, but as the sun came up the backdrop revealed blue sky. Having enjoyed a relatively mild build up to Europe’s toughest endurance regularity rally, LeJog started to bite early as even experienced hands hit trouble.
Mild weather makes for great start but veils LeJog’s teeth
Medal favourites and championship battlers already hit trouble
Teams from 12 different countries started the renowned rally which travels from the tip of England at Land’s End to the northerly tip of Scotland at John O’Groats, taking the longest and hardest route possible. There are Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at stake, together with the final points for the HERO Cup Championship for drivers and the Golden Roamer Award for the top navigator of 2022.
With 300 miles, six tests and seven regularities behind them to end Leg One at the Hog’s Head near Abergavenny, two medal favourites had already hit trouble. Thomas and Roger Bricknell, a former Golden Roamer Navigator’s Champion, had made contact with an obstacle on a test, losing a tyre from their Volkswagen Golf Gti, indicating an early retirement. However, there was a text from the father and son saying they are going to try and re-join for Leg Three.
Also in some trouble were driver Noel Kelly and Golden Roamer navigator’s championship contender for 2022 honours, Pete Johnson in their Volvo. Pete is in a battle with Henry Carr for the 2022 Golden Roamer Trophy award for the top navigator of the year – and LeJog is the showdown.
Noel: “The Volvo has been running rough since the start of LeJog. I think it’s something underneath the head or somewhere as we put new exhaust valves in. Kevin Savage performed that operation before this event, because we were running a bit rough on the Rally of the Tests as well. We thought maybe the carbs were out of balance a bit, but it got worse again this morning.
“And even on the first test, once we got into the hill part, it just wasn’t pulling. So we’ve gone through the morning as quickly as we could, without trying to collect penalties, it was making some horrible noises. By lunchtime the mechanical assistance crews were rechecking the plugs, we checked everything. One of them was very badly oiled and wasn’t doing anything. So we’re on three cylinders.
“Normally the Volvo is so smooth, but it’s just one of those things and there is a long way to go.
“Pete’s chasing the Golden Roamer. I think Steven will get the Hero Cup if he can keep it going, but from my point of view, I’m more worried about getting Pete to the end. Hopefully we should get him there. Fingers crossed.”
Henry Carr remains stoic but the VW Golf GtI he is navigating in for American Paul O’ Kane has also been misfiring on Leg One, just when Henry needs a good charge to beat Pete Johnson.
Henry “There’s been a lot to do, keeping me on my toes. We had a bit of a car problem this morning, but it was fixed at lunchtime, the alternator wasn’t charging, but in between coffee and lunch they found the wiring had broken and we had to try and fix it en route. I also had to push the car to a Timing Point on the last regularity before lunch, so we dropped, a minute there because I couldn’t push hard enough! Then we lost another minute as we stopped to fix it! Still, we hit all the controls but lost two medal points really.
“ As far as the Golden Roamer is concerned, I think Mr Johnson’s in the driving seat or the passenger seat for that matter. Even though they’ve been misfiring quite badly at the moment, there is a long way to go for all of us.”
The Number of international crews entered the 2022 LeJog is impressive, and that’s just what they are here for, the endurance, or as LeJog is officially called, a Reliability Trial. Reliability is just what is needed in every department for teams to make it to John O’Groats.
To prove the reputation of LeJog as the finest regularity endurance event in Europe, there are competitors from 13 countries taking part. 16 Germans, 10 Swiss, 8 Dutch, 2 French, 2 Belgians, 2 Austrians, 1 from Finland, Ireland, USA, Sweden and 2 from the Isle of Man. The balance are from the UK and whilst medals are the big goal, many just want the satisfaction of lasting the course and getting to the finish.
It is not just the competitors who are fans of this event and historic regularity rallying. The CEO of Motorsport UK the governing body of the sport in this country, David Richards CBE, is also a fan of this branch of motor sport.
David; “ I think it historic rallying has got a great, great future. You know, people looking at cars today, electric cars, they’re a commodity getting you from A to B. Historic rallying is fun, taking an old car out and having a great fun doing an event like this or doing smaller events in an historic rally car is great. I really am a great advocate for historic events.”
So much so that David Richards was kind enough to invite all the LeJoggers to a coffee halt where all the cars assembled at the keyside in St Mawes, Cornwall where he owns and runs two hotels, the St Mawes Hotel and the Idle Rocks. Both provided a great backdrop to the rally as it briefly paused for breath.
The 2022 HERO Challenge Champions, Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite have taken the endurance test for the first time as they plunge into their first ever LeJog.
Alistair; “It’s going really well, bearing in mind 10 days ago, we didn’t have an engine! We were still looking for bits, but it’s performed really, really well today, stronger than before. We are happy with how quick it is.”
As a navigator, Matt is also happy he is not in the little open MG they were forced to use on their last event when their SAAB 900 Turbo was still not ready. “It’s nice to be back with a roof over our heads.
“Definitely, I mean, space is really useful for this event more than anything, three map books and sheets of paper all over the place. So I am quite happy to be back in the Saab and it’s going well so far.
“This is endurance, something very different for us. It’s been quite hard to just let the seconds go on the regularity today and not worry too much about it because we know it’s a very long event, chasing seconds now it’s just not worth it. We will try to stay as fresh as possible and keep on the right route as much as possible.”
As LeJog runs deep into Saturday night and Sunday morning on Leg Two with the eagerly anticipated Time Control section, the first car was only due after 4.00 am on Sunday morning.
As a result many have been feeling the LeJog bite already as rally cars, the route or stamina issues affect the crews.
Germans Martin Burthenne and Max Schaefer were already making arrangements to ship their 1971 Mini Cooper S back to Germany after losing a lot of fuel with a major leak that proved to be irreparable. The Porsche 911 SC of Rob Hendy and Michael Joyce took a major wrong turn as the ended up on a wrong approach in a regularity. They cut to the hotel in Telford where crews will snatch a few hours sleep before Leg Three starts on Sunday morning.