Le Jog Reliability Trial
2nd-5th December 2023
GOLD MEDAL WINNERS
Category B1: Klaus Mueller/Eric Schwab (Lancia Fulvia Coupe)
Category B2: Stewart Christie/Andy Ballantyne (MG B GT)
Category C: Andy Lane/Iain Tullie (BMW 2002 Tii)
Category D: Thomas Koerner/Rolf Pellini (BMW 320/4)
Date: 2nd-5th December 2023
Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock
Route: 1,300 Miles, 30 Regularities, 1 TC Sections & 18 Tests
Countries: England, Wales & Scotland
The Le Jog Reliability Trial is proud to claim the title of 'The Toughest Classic Event in Europe'; the 2023 edition would live up to that accolade. The four days of the Le Jog coincided with the first freezing and snowy blast to hit the UK this winter.
A disappointing entry of only 44 cars left Land's End at 07:30 on Saturday morning; they all had the aim of reaching John O'Groats on Tuesday morning. Many were chasing the elusive Gold Medals awarded to the crew in each category that completed the entire route with no, or the least number of, medal losses.
Competition opened with the traditional test around the Land's End tarmac road. Paul O Kane/Nick Bloxham (Porsche Carrera) were best here, stopping the clock two seconds ahead of Thomas Koerner/Rolf Pellini (BMW 320/4).
This was to be the high spot for the Porsche crew, on the third regularity, near Bovey Tracey, the bolts holding the propshaft in place worked loose. They got the problem fixed, but missed a number of sections to rejoin after the Chepstow halt. However, the car then developed a severe misfire and the tripmeter started to misbehave. Realising that the gods were against them on this occasion, they decided to retire.
The first regularity used the lanes south of Hayle and contained three timing points. Manuel Dubs/Fabrizio Arrigucci (Toyota FJ-40 LV-KCW) were only a mile into the section when they had a collision with a non-competing car. They lost time and missed sections as they sorted out the issues. The crew went on to complete the route to John O'Groats, stopping along the way to tow many other competitors out of ditches. For their perseverance and helpfulness, they received the Spirit of the Rally Award at the Finish.
Previous Gold Medal winners, Eric Michiels/Aswin Pych (Porsche 924S), were best on the reg, dropping just two seconds. A number of crews lost any chance of a medal after missing to find the first timing point, which was located on a triangle.
After a coffee halt at The Plume of Feathers at Mitchell, there were two more regularities and four tests to contest before the lunch halt at Exeter Racecourse; two of the tests were at the track.
At Exeter four crews were on Gold; two, Henrik Verspohl/Horst Pokroppa (MG A Coupe) and Koerner/Pellini had yet to drop any medal points. The other two gold holders, who had both dropped one point, were Stewart Christie/Andy Ballantyne (MG B GT) and Andy Lane/Iain Tullie (BMW 2002Tii). Remarkably, given what the weather was to throw at the event, three of these crews would still be on Gold at the Finish.
After the break, there was the long haul up the M5, which was interspersed with two regularities. The evening halt was at Chepstow Racecourse, where there were two tests, one was tackled before the break and another after, the second one started Leg Two.
At the end of Leg One, the Gold Medal were still held by the same four crews, with 20 others still on the Medal Table.
The Ford Escort Mexico of Mike Farrall/Liam Burns had developed a diff problem before the Start and the crew had initially thought that they would have to cut straight to the end of Leg Two at Mold to have the problem fixed. However, they decided to contest the route from the second test. They struggled to Chepstow where the diff was changed by the Sweeps.
Silver Medal Winners: Henrik Verspohl/Horst Pokroppa (MG A Coupe)
Leg Two would take the route through Wales, starting with the Chepstow test, this was followed by six regularities, before the infamous TC Section in the north east of the principality. Well, that was the plan.
The first two regularities, the first around Raglan and the second south of Brecon were tackled without any major issues, but a snow storm arrived into the area as the field were on the third reg.
Snow falling on to the already icy surfaces made the going difficult. The first car to hit problems was the VW Golf GTi of Ted Gaffney/Paul Bosdet, they slid on the ice and ended in a ditch. Shortly afterwards, at the same spot, Farrall/Burns put their newly repaired Mexico on top of the hedge. The Golf, which had only suffered a broke light lens in the initial off, was severely damaged when a third car hit it. Gaffney/Bosdet got no further.
The remainder of the field were unable to get past the spot as the roads were now polished and the stranded cars didn't allow for a clear run up the following slope. Cars had to cut to the main road and miss out the final timing point; penalties at that control were therefore cancelled.
This excitement was immaterial to Jayne Wignall/Kevin Savage; they picked up their third puncture of the event and, without any more spares, they had to withdraw from the rally.
Silver Medal Winners: Derek Hunnisett/Alan Pettit (Volvo 122S)
At the Llanwrthwl fuel halt, the Mini of Kevin Haseldene/Hart den Hartog, which had been on a Silver Medal, refused to restart. Despite almost two hours of effort, the car refused to fire up. Eventually, the mechanics got it going and they got the car to the overnight halt. They rejoined on Sunday and, despite continuing ignition problems, they got as far as Perth on Monday, then a failed gearbox put an end to their event.
Meanwhile, back in Wales, the advance cars and marshals were encountering increasing depths of snow as they tried to get through the next regularities or to the controls that they were due to man. Several centimetres of the white stuff had fallen within a short period.
The first timing points on both Reg 2/4, north of Rhayader, and Reg 2/5, north of Llanidloes, were run, but the remainder of the two regs were cancelled. Reg 2/6, which was supposed to run from Dinas Mawddwy to Bala, via Lake Vyrnwy, over the mountain road, had to be scrapped completely.
The area around Gwyddelwern and Llanelidan, the scene of the TC Section, had escaped the snow, but the roads were treacherously icy. The 14 TCs and 9 PCs were run without any loss, although the going was very difficult for the competitors.
Michiels/Pych, who had been on a Bronze Medal, were one of the first to hit trouble; they went off the road and had to wait to be recovered by the sweeps. They had to cut the remainder of the route and head to Mold.
The most experienced Le Jog competitors, Rob Kiff/John Kiff, had also been on Bronze at Llanwrthwl, but then slid into a deep ditch and broke the car's front wheel on a very icy section near Bryn Saith Marchog. This forced them out.
All these dramas meant that at Mold only nine crews remained on the Medal Table. The same four crews held the Gold positions, but the Silver places were now occupied by Klaus Mueller/Eric Schwab (Lancia Fulvia Coupe), Richard White/Bernard Northmore (Volvo Amazon 122), Derek Hunnisett/Alan Pettit (Volvo 142S) and Thomas Bricknell/Roger Bricknell (VW Golf GTi).
Due to the very challenging conditions in Wales, the organisers decided to reinstate those crews who had been on the Medal Table at Chepstow; they would now be eligible for a Riband, that is, if they visited all the remaining controls and checks. This allowed seven more crews back onto the table.
Very importantly, Kalus Mueller had assured himself of the HERO Cup as he had gained sufficient points to overhaul long time leader, Paul Bloxidge, by reaching the end of Leg One; Bloxidge was on marshalling duties in Wales, so wasn't going to add to his total.
Similarly, Rolf Pellini had overtaken a marshalling Sally Woof to ensure that he had won the Golden Roamer for 2023.
Being Recovered: Eric Michiels/Aswin Pych (Porsche 924S)
Leg 3 took the route from Mold to Newcastle. Five tests and five regularities were planned, although the weather was below freezing all day and the fallen snow was making the going difficult. This led to the cancellation of Reg 3/3, which was due to pass Gunnerside; the road was impassable.
Rod Hanson/Clare Groves had been the only team on a Bronze Medal at Mold, however, sadly, they missed a Secret Check that was located on a triangle off the B-road south of Alston, and lost any chance of a medal.
Nick Maris/Henry Carr (Datsun 260Z) were one of the crews who were caught out by the conditions; they slid off the road towards the end of the final reg of the day and had to be recovered by the sweeps. They missed the final control and dropped off the Medal Table.
At Newcastle the Gold Medals remained in the hands of the same four crews who had held them since Exeter. The closest competition was in category B1, where Verspohl/Horst Pokroppa were only two medal points ahead of Mueller/Schwab.
After the first full night's rest since Land's End, 29 crews left Newcastle for Leg Four, which ended in Coylumbridge, a familiar Le Jog venue. Conditions continued to be demanding with ice and packed snow on most of the route. There were eight regs and six tests on the 14 hour schedule.
The Jaguar Mk2 of Chris Dillier/Tony Brooks went off the road on the opening regularity of the day, they missed the remainder of the section, plus a test. This dropped them off the Medal Table.
Regularity 4/5, which was which was due to run from Loch Freuchie to Loch Tay, had to be scrubbed after a local farmer reported that they couldn't even get their tractor up the road.
On the final regularity of Leg Four, not far from Coylumbridge, Maris/Carr went off the road again; they were recovered, but decided to withdraw having dropped even more time. Also in trouble once again were Farrall/Burns; they put their Mexico a very long way into the undergrowth, but, with help, got out and continued. They were to be rewarded with the Against All Odds Award at the Finish.
Significantly, Bricknell/Bricknell missed two difficult to find Secret Checks, near Newtonmore. They had been on a Silver Medal, but now fell off the table. However, at the Finish Thomas Bricknell was awarded the Test Pilot Award for the fastest total time over the event's 18 tests.
Silver Medal Winners: Richard White/Bernard Northmore (Volvo Amazon 122)
Leg Five was due to open with a 15 timing point Loch Ness Monster regularity, however, the weather caused the first half of the test to be cancelled; eight timing points survived. Despite the cuts, the section had a dramatic effect on the Medal Table. Verspohl/Pokroppa failed to reach seven timing points within a minute of the target, thus gaining a medal loss for each control, while Mueller/Schwab were late at five. This left them level, both were now on Gold.
Regularity 5/2 ran parallel to the Cromarty Firth, finishing near Tain. Mueller/Schwab reached each of the timing points within a minute and didn't add to their medal total, however, Verspohl/Pokroppa, in the icy conditions, lost another two points and dropped to a Silver Medal.
There were four regularities remaining but these made no changes to the Medal Table, especially after the four timing points on the final reg were downgraded to Passage Controls; the roads at the northern end of Caithness were sheet ice and, to avoid any danger of cars chasing times meeting local traffic, the section was, in effect, neutralised.
Twenty-seven cars made the finishing arch and pipers at John O'Groats, four days and three hours after they had left Land's End.
Andy Lane/Iain Tullie became the most successful Le Jog competitors as they now had a total of seven Golds, pulling away from Jayne Wignall/Kevin Savage, whose retirement meant that they stayed on six Golds.
It was Andy Lane's eleventh Le Jog, but, in his opinion, by far the hardest that he had contested.
- Final Medal Table
- Award Winners
- Class Positions
- Medal Monitor
- Time Penalty Details
- Marques Competition
- Team Competition
- Best Regularity Performances
- Best Test Performances
- Positions in Time Penalty Order
- Test Penalties Test 1/1
- Test Penalties Test 1/2
- Test Penalties Test 1/3
- Test Penalties Test 1/4
- Test Penalties Test 1/5
- Test Penalties Test 1/6
- Test Penalties Test 2/1
- Test Penalties Test 3/1
- Test Penalties Test 3/2
- Test Penalties Test 3/3
- Test Penalties Test 3/4
- Test Penalties Test 4/1
- Test Penalties Test 4/2
- Test Penalties Test 4/3
- Test Penalties Test 4/4
- Test Penalties Test 4/5
- Test Penalties Test 4/6
- Test Penalties Test 5/1
- List of Starters