WORDS: ELLIOTT HUGHES | PHOTOGRAPHY: Will broadhead & Blue passion
This year’s HERO LeJog rally saw just 54 of 70 crews finish the 1300-mile route of attrition in what is described by clerk of the course Guy Woodcock as “the toughest event for ten years”.
Uncharacteristically wintry weather meant crews and their classic cars had to deal with the perils of high winds, black ice, snow, hailstones and flooding as they neared the finish line at John O’Groats, where the four-day 2021 rally met its conclusion.
As a result, just three crews achieved coveted gold and silver medals, with two more taking bronze and a further three bagging blue ribbons.
“LeJog has lived up to its reputation as the toughest in Europe,” Guy Woodcock said. “I’ve never seen snow like it in my life… crews were challenged top to bottom – and that is borne out by the lack of medals won.”
The first of the three gold medal-winning crews were Kurt Vanderspinnen and Bjorn Vanoverschelde, who were in flying form aboard their 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint, followed by Dick Appleton and son Mark in their ‘70s Morris Cooper S. Amy Henchoz and navigator Niall Frost’s Volvo 142 took the final gold in their first major rally.
Silvers were collected by Andy Ballantyne and Owen Turner, Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage, and Noel Kelly and Pete Johnson, in their respective Chrysler Galant, Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and Volvo 122S classics.
HERO Cup Champion and rally veteran Jayne Wignall reinforced the assertion of the organisers by saying that this year’s event was “a difficult rally indeed” and “one of the toughest LeJogs for many years”.
The German duo of Klaus Mueller and Eric Schwab secured bronze medals after persevering with early issues with their 1965 Lancia Fulvia, and they were joined by Sybren van der Goot and Maiko Wellink from the Netherlands as the only other bronze finishers.
Crews from eight different countries successfully made their way to the finish line on December 7, with many of them resorting to fitting snow chains in order to scramble up the demanding inclines of Scotland’s icy roads. Unfortunately, several cars visited the ditch during the 45-mile Loch Ness stretch of the rally, which meant that the clerk of the course had “no option” than to cancel the regularity.
Deputy clerk of the course Nick Reeves paid tribute to the marshals for managing such a treacherous rally: “We couldn’t have done it without the effort of the whole team… Everyone thanks the marshals each year, but they really pulled it out of the bag to service the competitors’ needs. It’s fantastic how they all get together and work tirelessly on the event.”
Registration for next year’s HERO LeJog rally is not yet open, but the event is expected to take place in its traditional early-December slot. Here’s hoping for more merciful British weather next time around…
For more information, head to HERO ERA’s website.
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