The Royal Automobile Club is hosting the world's oldest motoring event, the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, on Sunday 4 November 2012. One of those who has taken part in many London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs is club member Nick Mason – fitting in the Car Runs between his Pink Floyd duties. Mason has taken part every year since 1985 and only failed to finish on two occasions. This November he will once again be on the start line in London with the 5-litre Panhard of 1901 vintage owned by his company Ten Tenths Limited.
He said: "My passion for cars and motor racing predates any involvement with music. My father, a director for Shell's documentary film unit, used to take me in his 4 1/2 litre Bentley to the vintage car events he was competing in, and some of my happiest childhood memories include the smell of leather, hot oil and blended racing fuels, accompanying the ticking sound of hot metal."
Mason bought the Panhard to take part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run following advice from American car enthusiast, Joel Finn. "Big-engined cars from this era are not that common, and the great thing about the Panhard's 5-litre engine is that the car can tackle a steep hill even when loaded to the gunwales with friends, family and mechanics."
After 18 London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs in his 1901 Panhard et Levassor Roi-des-Belges, many of which have been covered here on Brain Damage, Nick Mason has a down-to-earth view of the event. "I suspect I was, like most people, guilty of assuming the run was mainly an excuse for dressing up, but experience has taught me that considerable skill is required to keep these brutes going in a straight line, let alone coaxing the gearbox into surrendering another gear. Entering Madeira Drive in Brighton gives you as great a sense of satisfaction as a chequered flag. It's just a shame that the most important event for veteran cars is held in November. The Panhard's picnic hampers seem rather extraneous on a bitterly cold morning when the wind chill factor makes you extremely glad you're wearing those funny goggles and half a hundredweight of animal pelts."
One hundred and sixteen years since it was first held, this year's London to Brighton Veteran Car Run will feature a maximum entry of 550 pre-1905 vehicles making their way from Hyde Park in London to Madeira Drive, Brighton. The event is part of a weekend Celebration of Motoring that includes the Future Car Challenge (for low energy use vehicles) and the Regent Street Motor Show (celebrating the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries of motoring).