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November 3rd 2002 - with Brain Damage Print E-mail

2002 London To Brighton Veteran Car Run

November 3rd, 2002

This year's annual London To Brighton Veteran Car Run promised much with fine skies starting the day - but this was not to last. Nick Mason took part, as he does most years, and my chat with him is below...

The Event

2002 London To Brighton Veteran Car Run, which included the appearance of Pink Floyd drummer, Nick Mason, interviewed here...The Veteran Car Run is held on the first Sunday of each November, and covers (with minor tweaks) the same route - from London's Hyde Park (setting off for the approximately 60 mile journey at 7:30am), down to Brighton's Madiera Drive, which is next to the beach (including the famous nudist beach - although even the hardiest of souls were not braving it on the day!). The run, which on its current basis has been held since 1927, is a re-enactment of the Emancipation Run, an 1896 celebration of the passing into law of the Locomotives On The Highway Act, raising the speed limit from 4 miles per hour (mph) to a heady 14 mph, and abolishing the requirement for the car to be preceded by a man on foot, carrying a red flag!

Only cars built before the 31st of December 1904 are eligible to take part, and the event attracts entrants from all over the world. This unique gathering of lovingly cared for and maintained vehicles give the public a chance to enjoy the cars doing what they were built for - driving! The drivers enter into the spirit of the event, donning full period costume, despite what the weather may throw at them. This year, the event attracted over four hundred cars, of one hundred and twenty three different makes, from as far away as the USA, South Africa, and Australia.

The event is not a race - the cars are limited to an average speed of 20 mph (those who get to Brighton too fast may be investigated for "cheating"!) and all who reach Brighton before 4:30pm in the afternoon get a Finisher's Medal. The first few finishers also receive a pendant, presented by the mayor of Brighton and Hove.

It is a fantastic event, with great organisation behind it - the cars all drive on public roads, so road signing, marshalls giving direction, and so on, all have to be arranged well in advance to ensure it runs smoothly with the minimum of inconvenience to other road users. More than that, it is marvelous to see some of the old vehicles, still running as well as when they were new. Some of them too, can reach some quite high speeds, when given free reign. The love and care lavished on the cars is obvious...

Unfortunately the weather did not respect this, and was not on the side of the drivers (or the spectators). Despite the day starting as a gorgeous crisp sunny November morning, there were spells of intensely heavy rain and storm. A large number of the participants were caught in a huge thunder and hail storm around the Crawley area (roughly midway between London and Brighton, which is traditionally used as a coffee stop by the drivers).

Bearing in mind the lack of protection these vehicles have (in most cases, there is no roof, no protection from any of the elements, and the only heating being the warmth of the engine), this resulted in the drivers and their passengers getting a thorough soaking, giving them a shivery drive down to Brighton.

Typical of the event, and the stereotype of the British (who made up the bulk of entrants this year), stiff upper lips were the order of the day. In some cases this was maybe due to them being frozen stiff!

The First Cars To Arrive

  1. 1896 Panhard Et Levassor (Belgian entrant) - arrived at 10:45am
  2. 1904 Mors (Kent entrant)
  3. 1903 Berliet (Yorkshire entrant)
  4. 1900 Panhard Et Levassor (Suffolk entrant)
  5. 1901 Panhard Et Levassor - at 11:10am, Nick Mason's car!
So, a very creditable fifth place for Nick, and a great showing for the Panhard Et Levassor marque.

Chat with Nick Mason

Despite being visibly very cold, shivery and wet, Nick was kind enough to pose for some pictures and have a chat with us about the event.

Matt Johns: So, Nick, did you manage to avoid the worst of the bad weather, on the way down?

Nick Mason: (Laughs) No, absolutely not! Well, actually we probably did better than some people; we really caught it at Gatwick.

Matt Johns: There were hail storms there I understand...

Nick Mason: Yes, that's right.

Matt Johns: When I arrived here [in Brighton], it was bright sunshine - beautiful - then the skies suddenly opened. It must be the last thing you'd want [on the run]!

Nick Mason: Yeah, but fortunately it didn't stay for long; for a while it looked like we would be stuck in solid rain for about twenty miles! Which would have been pretty bad...

Matt Johns: You were fifth this time round?

Nick Mason: Yes!

Matt Johns: ...Which is pretty good going...

Nick Mason: Yes, one of my best results for a few years.

Matt Johns: Are you going to be carrying on doing this, year after year? Despite what the November weather may bring?

Nick Mason: Well, I have to say that this was really encouraging - I just thought that the traffic and the organisation was so much better this year. Last time it was really hard work - a lot of red lights through London: this time we just breezed through. It's really nice. Generally.

I think everyone, because there had been some upsets about the dating [of the event] and all the rest of it, everyone was really trying hard. And I also think that last year, it was just after September 11th, there were a lot of security issues, a lot of police weren't on duty there because they doing other stuff.

Matt Johns: Sure, and I presume that there were problems transporting cars from other countries because of the security checks at the airports?

Nick Mason: Yes of course.

Matt Johns: There was some controversy a few months ago regarding some rule changes to the London to Brighton run, to include some younger cars. What was your view of this? Was the suggestion to include such cars a positive one in your mind?

Nick Mason: I don't think so; really the cars get easier [to drive] the more recent they are, so it is less of a challenge... I think it really depends whether they are running low on entries then absolutely - bring some later cars in. Otherwise I think preference...

I think really the most interesting cars are the oldest cars, as they tell the history of the motor vehicle. They are really the ones that really ought to be seen.

Matt Johns: Yes - it's lovely to see them doing what they were made for - driving - rather than sitting in a museum. Ultimately that is what they are there for.

You are at Brooklands [Racing Circuit] this week I understand..

Nick Mason: (Nick looks confused)

Matt Johns: ...is that right? Next week? With Stephen Fry?

Nick Mason: Oh yes that's right.

Matt Johns: What's that all about then?

Nick Mason: He's making a film based on Evelyn Waugh's "Vile Bodies" called "Bright Young Things" and there's a sequence of motor racing at Brooklands which I'll be doing...

Matt Johns: There was a film a few years ago I understand you were involved in, about motor racing, called "Mon Ami Mate" - what happened with that?

Nick Mason: I never actually started work on that. There's always a lot of talk, and a lot of rumours, of what I may or may not be doing, and that was simply that.

With that I thanked Nick for his time, and let him grab a coffee from the flask that his equally cold and wet family were pouring from, and also catch up with some of his fellow drivers who had also completed the run.

 
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