THE Beaujolais Run, now in its 44th year, will this year commemorate World War One.
Starting from The Royal Automoblie Club in Surrey, UK, on November 17, this year’s monumental event sees teams travel with patron John Surtees OBE to the city of Bruges and the battlefields of Flanders.
This year the Run is supported by Vauxhall, which started producing cars in 1903, and provided vehicular support during the First World War. Anthony Reid, Goodwood’s ‘king of the hill’, will be at the wheel of the Insignia Sports Tourer as he once again tackles the course.
Travelling to Tyne Cot, Passchendaele and Mons en route to Reims; competitors will be thrown back to 1914 as they take their place in the trenches.
Having travelled through the Menin Gate and over the Messine Ridge, teams will then arrive in Reims to visit the cellars of Champagne Taittinger, which was a military hospital during WW1 and a place of refuge during the battle of the Marne.
During the event, teams will have to solve a navigational challenge finding five cryptic checkpoints along a WW1 route. Competitors have to cover the course in the shortest possible distance, making the event a level playing field for all types of vehicles.
Encompassing spectacular driving, both on and off the track, teams will then join the vignerons of the Beaujolais region for the release of France’s first vintage on Thursday 20th November.
En route to repatriating the first bottles of this year’s vintage to the UK, competitors will dine at Champagne Taittinger’s Chateau de la Marquetterie. The Chateau was Marshal Joffre’s headquarters during the battle of the Marne and Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger owns Joffre’s original staff car, which will be present during an evening of commemoration, reflection and prize giving.
In addition to John Surtees, this year’s Run will also see Anthony Reid, Touring Car, Sports Car and Classic Car racer taking part. He will be on hand throughout the event to give advice to competitors.
The primary aim of The Beaujolais Run is to raise money for the Henry Surtees Foundation, a UK charity inspired by the memory of the great, enthusiastic young racer who was tragically killed in an accident at Brands Hatch.
In 1970, at the Hotel Maritonnes, Joseph Berkmann – one of the pioneers of popular wine journalism – and Clement Freud, wine correspondent and Member of Parliament, were sharing a dinner of Coq au Vin. As bottle succeeded bottle that night, the germ of an idea took shape. Sometime after midnight, they roared away from Romanèche with several cases of 1970 Beaujolais in the back of each car – having challenged each other to be the first to get their cases to London.
That year and the next, the race was a purely private affair between Berkmann and Freud. Berkmann won both times. Having taken potshots at each other through their respective wine columns, word got around that something interesting was going on, and others rushed to join in: The Beaujolais Run was born.
In 1973, the gauntlet was thrown down to Fleet Street to ‘Bring Back the Beaujolais’ – offering a bottle of Champagne for the first to deliver a bottle of the new vintage to his desk. At that time the object of the exercise was speed, but this was brought to an end by the RAF, who later took up the challenge in a Harrier and broke all records!
The Beaujolais Run has evolved to become a navigational shootout through a cryptic checkpoint course, which begins at a location in the UK and ends in deepest Burgundy. This format showcases the best the UK and France has to offer and ensures that Austin and Aston Martin, Jaguar and Jalpa and Maserati and Morris can compete on a level playing field. Maps, Sat Nav and laptops are all acceptable modes of navigation on the event. The Run attracts an impressive array of teams piloting supercars, classic cars, 4x4s, kit cars, specialist cars, daily drives and touring motorcycles.
Teams compete for the honour of achieving P1 on the grid the following year (highest fundraising team) and P2, the team that covers the shortest distance on the navigational trial. There are two navigational classes one just for maps and one for sat navs and other assistance.
The Beaujolais Run donates 100 per cent of monies raised by competitors to The Henry Surtees Foundation, which was set up by John Surtees in memory of his son, who was killed in an accident at Brands Hatch in 2009. He became the first patron of the Beaujolais Run in 2010.
Surtees, who celebrates the 50th anniversary of his double world championship this year, said: “When I was asked to become a patron, the answer was not a difficult one. The opportunity of being involved with an event that included travelling on fine French roads, through superb villages and visiting châteaux, together with superb wine, Champagne and food was hard to resist. The important point, however, is that all proceeds go to charity. I have to thank all concerned for nominating the charity set up in the name of my late son Henry. I will certainly ensure that every penny counts in helping causes for those that are less fortunate than ourselves.”
Rob Bellinger, Run Director, said: “It seemed appropriate on the centenary to pay tribute to those who fell on all sides in World War One. No one must forget the great sacrifices that were made; we hope to make a positive contribution whilst commemorating the fallen.”