Thanks to the wonderful support from Country Lane Tours mail list members and the help of local fundraising a total of £2,630 was raised for the three charities, Cae Dai Trust, Hope House Children’s Hospice, and the Cancer Ward at Glan Clwyd Hospital. Many thanks to everyone who took part in the competition or sent a donation!
My thanks also to all who gave their time and expertise freely, Dave Beech who did a fabulous job of resurrecting the Flying Tortoise from what was essentially scrap, competition engine builder Peter Jones for meticulously assembling the motor in the midst of a busy workload, cartoonist Bill Stott for producing and donating the bespoke Flying Tortoise logo, and Will Humphreys who produced the advertising boards and bonnet transfers. I must include Stuart Battersby, Nigel Hilling and other members of the Ford Side Valve Club who gave excellent technical advice whilst the car was being prepared. Their help was invaluable!
The Tortoise cruised happily at 50mph to the start at Land’s End, via the BBC in Cardiff where I gave an interview, and after scrutineering on Friday morning, where the car created much amusement amongst the crews of exotica, the serious business of plotting the initial part of the route took place.
7.30am on Saturday morning, in driving wind and rain, saw us setting off as second car on the road one minute behind a BMW 328.
With just 30bhp, three forward gears, and cable brakes, progress was sedate, but the heater Dave had installed work well warming up the draughts and, despite dire warnings, the vacuum wipers performed without problem.
After a series of regularities in the West Country lanes and assorted driving tests we rolled into Gordano Services near Bristol at 7pm for a supper halt and more map plotting but I was disconcerted to find quite a large oil leak from the engine side plate. However, it was a question of carrying on regardless, especially as we were carrying plenty of oil.
From Gordano the night section took us west into Wales and slowly north via the infamous Bwll-y-Groes Pass to Bala and then into a series of timed sections on rough hilly lanes before the final run into the main control and the chance of a couple of hours sleep at Ewloe, near Chester.
By now we were getting a bit depressed as the car had developed a serious clutch judder and the depression was further compounded by getting a puncture just three miles short of Ewloe, resulting in 900 penalties for failing to get in within maximum time limit!
Although it was 4am we were greeted by Dave who set to sorting the car while we had a brief nap and shower. By 6.30am he announced in breakfast that he’d sorted the oil leak, clutch judder, and replaced the spare wheel. Our spirits lifted!
At 8.05am we were once more on the road and the car gave no more cause for concern despite some appalling rough forestry regularity sections and the infamous Stanhope Ford, all the way to the night halt in Carlisle where neither oil nor water needed topping up.
The Mayor of Carlisle waved the cars off on Monday morning, by which time we were the oldest car still running, and the route zigzagged north via the Kyle of Lochalsh and Cape Wrath to John O’Groats. We encountered considerable snow along the way and one section had to be cancelled as the organiser’s four by four couldn’t get through!
We rolled into the finish at 10am on Tuesday morning, twenty-six hours after leaving Carlisle. The Flying Tortoise had done it!
At the black-tie dinner in the evening we were presented with the Veterans’ Award (oldest car to finish), the Spirit of the Event Award, and the Charity Shield. In addition we had come 38th out of 77 starters, beating several Porsches, an Audi Quattro, a Healey 3000, several 80s BMWs, and a few other more powerful machines and confounded those who didn’t think we’d get out of Cornwall!
On Wednesday morning the 542 mile run back to North Wales was hampered by serious rain, snow, and crosswinds. The Tortoise doesn’t like crosswinds! That said, from Castletown, just north of Wick, back home, took just fourteen hours, an average, including stops, of 38.7mph.
The total mileage covered from start to finish was 2,535 with approximately 1,550 competitive between Saturday and Tuesday mornings.
The winner of the competition with the winning guess as to how far the flying Tortoise would travel (he was just 11 miles out) is Peter Hughes of Denbigh who completed his form at Cae Dai Trust.
Country Lane Tours has used Portmeirion Hotel many times for group lunches and the first two Dragon Trails finished there with an overnight stay. Sadly the management at Portmeirion felt unable to donate the prize so the cost was covered by Country Lane Tours.
It must be stressed that Le Jog is a seriously tough competitive event and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the relaxed tours organised by me!
You can view more details of Le Jog at www.heroevents.eu