Alastair and a friend find the most unsuitable car possible to take on the Lands End to John O’Groats rally.
LeJog is a rally run by John Brown. The rally starts at Lands End and finishes in John O’Groats and it’s run every year. It used to be extremely hard. Most of these rallies have softened now but it was basically three days, non-stop, with a three-hour halt for rest. The regulations said we had to swap drivers but, of course, nobody did.
The whole thing was set on a 50k average, which was the most they could set, and it would be on the narrowest roads they could find in Cornwall, Devon and Scotland. I rang up my friend Anthony and said: “What do you reckon?” We had a collection of books called ‘Cars of the 60s’, ‘Cars of the 50s’ etc and we agreed to look for the longest and heaviest car in production at that time. This turned out to be the Daimler Majestic Major. It was the biggest car you could buy so we went out and bought one to do this rally because it was totally unsuitable.
The joy of doing rallies in unsuitable cars is if you turn up in an unsuitable car people say “Oh, that’s unsuitable” and have a laugh. And when you come in the top five they say: “Oh, didn’t he do well?” Whereas if you turn up in the all-singing, all-dancing car you’ve only got one option : which is to win. If you don’t win you’re a prat. If you turn up in your £100,000 Porsche 911 and you come tenth you’re just a twat in an expensive car.
The first test of LeJog was to reverse up a cliff and we lost reverse gear. Like an idiot I tried to reverse up the cliff and ruptured the gear box so we had no reverse at all, not even a sniff of it. There was no time to fix it so for the next three days on these little narrow roads we couldn’t go the wrong way because we couldn’t turn round. It’s amazing how you can survive without reverse. We got through the whole long weekend without it because we planned ahead. If we had to turn around in the street we would bounce it off the curb to knock it backwards. Lots of the Scottish terrain was on a slope and that was an opportunity because we could drive to the top of it and then roll back down.