Pioneer Run showcases endurance of veteran vehicles

Christopher Cook (Jnr) at Madeira Drive, Brighton at the end of the run
Christopher Cook (Jnr) at Madeira Drive, Brighton at the end of the run

A handful of hardy riders battled the snow from Epsom Downs to Brighton and were joined by hundreds more further down the route in this year’s 79th Pioneer Run.

Desperate not to cancel the event on Sunday (March 18), organisers gave riders the option of starting at the official line at Tattenham Corner or from the designated coffee stop at Pease Pottage.

Christopher Cook Snr, 58, from Crawley was one of the few that rode the full length of the route. He said: “We set off about 7.15am and the snow was alright, in fact it was one of the best runs this year because there were no new bikes in the way stopping us and the roads were all clear.”

He said this was his sixth time doing the run and that for his son, who also participates, the event is the highlight of his year.

Christopher Cook Jnr, 31, who has owned his Quadrant 1907 for three years said of the run: “It’s the challenge of making it because the bikes don’t really want to run and it’s a struggle to get them here but that’s the thrill – of making it.”

The event, described as a run rather than a race, aims to demonstrate the reliability and endurance of veteran machines. Some were built as early as 1896 and, as riders come from all over the world to participate, the organisers were hopeful to go ahead.

Ian McGill, 80, president and event secretary of The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club which stages the Pioneer Run, said: “The only time we have not ridden was during the War and just after the War there was a fuel crisis, so there was two years then and we have had one year of Foot and Mouth that we couldn’t ride and in 2013 we were stopped again for snow.”

Once riders have reached their destination on Maderia Drive in Brighton, the public have the opportunity to admire the collection of pre-1914 motorcycles, tricycles and forecars in all their glory and in the afternoon an award ceremony takes place.

Mr McGill said: “We have a lot of awards; there is one for the greatest age rider who is riding the oldest machine and so you will probably get someone whose total years is getting up towards 200 because the oldest rider has been about 90.

“We have also got one for the most meritorious performance which might be that you have broken down at Epsom and pushed it all the way here.”

The Pioneer Run is the first motoring event to come to Madeira Drive in Brighton each year with the Veteran Car Club finishing the season.

Vice-president of The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club, Baz Staple, 87, from Tunbridge Wells said: “The Club itself was inaugurated in 1924 and the first Pioneer Run was in 1930.

“This is my 50th run and a few people have done 50 but next year there is a guy who will have done 60 years, which will be a record as no-one has done 60 before.”