After 1500 miles over 5 legs, in 75 hours, the Land’s End to John O’ Groats Reliability Trial 2023 reached its end at a fine and sunny John O’ Groats, somewhat ironic after the dire conditions experienced during the event. Along the way the competitors have passed through 3 countries and experienced some of the most extreme weather to beset the rally in a very long time, helping to decimate the field. It has been seven years since the last snow and ice-affected event, making it as treacherous then and as now in 2023.
This edition marked 30 years since the first-ever LeJog in 1993, and if there was ever an event to stick to the principles of endurance laid down by John Brown and those first pioneers, then this was it, as it went according to John’s original script.
44 crews started the rally, with almost half of the entrants hailing from across Europe. Of those starters, just 27 finished the rally, as a combination of mechanical woes, driving incidents and fatigue led to retirements along the route, making the achievement of those crews that did reach the end all the more remarkable. One pair that exited the event due to mechanical woes were John and Robert Kiff, who are some of the most successful competitors to ever compete in this event and have been involved since the very first event in one capacity or another. The wheels quite literally came off their challenge this year, when they lost a wheel on the chaotic second leg of the event, ruining any chance of adding another medal to those achieved in their perennially successful VW Beetle over 30 years.
Experience and medal-winning history count for nothing in blizzards and black ice. Ask Greek driver Nicholas Maris and Yorkshireman Henry Carr who slid off twice, once down a steep bank to be winched out by a media team and the 1975 Toyota FJ-40 LV-KCW of Swiss pair Manual Dubs and Fabrizio Arrigucci who showed great spirit with the rescue. With that slide, Henry’s chance of challenging for the Navigator’s Golden Roamer title also slipped away.
Motorcycle racer Mike Farrell and navigator Zak Burns also went off the road bruising their Ford Escort Mexico twice, the second time so far down a steep bank, thankfully without injury, that the car’s rescue was a thought to be a lost cause. Somehow against the odds, they miraculously reappeared in time to see the Maris Carr 240Z winched up another slippery slope further along the route.
Six-time gold medal winners were not immune either as Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage were forced to retire their Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint after three punctures left them stranded with no spares.
Of those that finished, only four managed to achieve the standard required to win a coveted gold medal, the very highest award for the driver and navigator’s endeavours on route. This isn’t a competition in the traditional sense. There are no outright winners, you either achieve a medal or a blue riband, or you don’t. However, even for those that made it to the finish without troubling the medals table, the very fact that they have driven under the arch to the Pipers salute is something very special.
Of special mention have to be Andy Lane and Iain Tullie who have become the most decorated of Joggers with no less than seven gold medals each after a skilful performance on both sides of their BMW 2002 Tii. Andy Lane; “This has been absolutely the toughest LeJog yet, I have never known anything like this!”