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Genevieve stars complete London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

After last year’s near-Arctic weather, the 350 entrants on the 2023 RM Sotheby’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run were greeted with unseasonably mild conditions. Star attraction as the cars, crews and spectators gathered in Hyde Park in the dark on 5 November was the on-the-road reunion of the 1904 Darracq and 1905 Spyker that were the stars of 1953 British comedy film Genevieve.

Both cars usually live in the Louwman Museum in The Netherlands and went on something of a 70th anniversary publicity tour, including time at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, before setting off from London. Of course, the slightly inconvenient truth is that neither the Spyker nor the Darracq (it’s a very long story in the case of the latter) should really be eligible for the event but, 127 years after the original Emancipation Run, the pair that ignited the classic car hobby in the UK have long-since been granted grandfather rights.

The flagging off was carried out by ex-F1 boss Ross Brawn OBE, Royal Automobile Club chairman Ben Cussons, and RM Sotheby’s UK chairman Peter Wallman. The horseless carriages were preceded by a pack of motor- and pedal-cycles on the road to the Madeira Drive finish. The cars were led away by a 1892 Peugeot vis-à-vis from Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile in Turin, and left in age order after the Genevieve stars.

Just past Big Ben, the event split into two routes to avoid congestion, half following he traditional A23 route via Kennington, Brixton and Streatham Common, the rest crossing Lambeth Bridge and travelling on through Vauxhall, Clapham Common and Tooting. They merged again just before Croydon and headed on down to Brighton in a cavalcade of more than 100 different marques from across the globe. All but 40 of the 341 starters completed the challenge by the 4.30pm deadline, the first to reach Sussex being Henry Lawson’s 1903 MMC.

After carrying out his flag duties, Ross Brawn completed his fourth London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in his 1904 Wilson-Pilcher 12hp (as featured in Octane 143). He said: ‘It was probably the best London to Brighton we’ve ever had – not least as I had the huge honour of tearing the red flag before the start. The car ran nicely. As ever, the atmosphere is unique, and there’s a great camaraderie among the participants. The crowds lining the route this year were probably the best I’ve ever seen.’

Ben Cussons added his thanks to the 350 volunteer marshalls, as well as the public: ‘My final thank-you is to the astonishing numbers of spectators who lined the route from start to finish, offering fabulous support and encouragement to all of us following in the wheel-tracks of those incredible pioneers.’

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