WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOS: WILL BROADHEAD
December 2023’s Land’s End to John O’Groats Reliability Trial marked the 30th edition of HERO-ERA’s season-ending rally, and it’s fair to say that it lived up to its reputation as being one of the most demanding regularities in Europe.
Taking place from December 2-5, the latest LeJog – dubbed by HERO-ERA as the most challenging in seven years – witnessed the intrepid crews grappling with inclement weather, fatigue and mechanical maladies throughout the gruelling 1500-mile journey to the finish line.
A mere 27 out of the 44 LeJog crews successfully completed the rally
Consequently, a mere 27 out of the 44 LeJog crews successfully completed the rally, with only four of them meeting the required standard to clinch the coveted gold medal.
Clearly, HERO-ERA’s assessment of the rally’s difficulty is no exaggeration. Many fell foul of the booby traps of snow and black ice, including the veteran pairing of John and Robert Kiff – despite being one of the most successful crews in the event’s history. On this occasion, the Kiffs’ bid for another trophy ended in dramatic fashion after their venerable VW Beetle jettisoned a wheel during the second leg.
Greek driver Nicholas Maris and Yorkshireman Henry Carr were another crew whose LeJog hopes were dashed, after black ice sent their Datsun 240Z into the scenery on two occasions. Mirroring their misfortunes was the plight of Mike Farrell and Zak Burns, who also slid off the road twice, damaging their Ford Escort Mexico. The Porsche 924S of Eric Michiels and Aswin Pyck had to be rescued, as well.
Even six-time gold medal winners were not immune, as Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage found when they had to retire their Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Three punctures left them stranded without a sufficient supply of spare tyres.
“It’s 30 years since the first LeJog, and this is the toughest that I’ve experienced in 15 years of doing these,” said clerk of the course Guy Woodcock. “We had bad weather throughout the trip, and anybody who has made it has done extremely well. Those who have finished with a medal really deserve it; it will be the toughest medal they will ever win.”
Gold medals were won by Stewart Christie and Andy Ballantyne in their MGB GT, Thomas Koerner and Rolf Pellini driving their BMW 320/4, Klaus Mueller and Eric Schwab piloting their Lancia Fulvia, and Andy Lane along with Iain Tullie, who secured their seventh gold medal with their BMW 2002 Tii.
The results also confirmed Klaus Mueller as the 2023 Drivers’ Champion, while Rolf Pellini clinched both the Champion Navigator and Golden Roamer crowns.
“At certain stages, it might have been nicer to be at home in front of a warm stove,” said Rolf straight after the event. “[It was] extremely difficult, and I am a little speechless now to have a gold medal and to have won the Golden Roamer. There is definitely a release of tension, and I don’t know whether to go to bed or get to the bar!”
The challenging nature of the 30th anniversary edition of LeJog was befitting its milestone, and only heightens the anticipation for its return in the winter of 2025. More information here.