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Each year I lead a party of Pre 1931 Standard Cars over to Ireland to participate in the Gordon Bennett Rally organised by the Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Club.

1913 Standard Rhyl

About to set off on the 2009 event

If you would like to join the party for future events, then please contact me.  I can then advise on ferry crossings and accommodation.

Raising the Standards on the International Gordon Bennett Rally of Ireland 2010

Friday June 11th to Sunday June 13th 2010

“Gordon Bennett” doesn’t time fly – yes it was that time of year again and Len Barr’s plans to take another contingent of Standards to Ireland were coming into action.

This year Len led a fleet of four Standards to the Gordon Bennett Rally 2010; three cars made the trip from the UK to join Irish owner, Jim O’Farrell.

Barry and Clive Watson          1910 Standard Model G (see Triumph World Dec2010)
Len Barr and Conan Lewis      1913 Standard Rhyl
David and Harry Groom           1928 Standard 9 “Gordon England”
Jim O’Farrell                          1915 Standard Coupe

The long weekend started on the Wednesday when the UK cars convened on Llanfair PG, Anglesey at the home, and B&B, of Phil and Liz Cordery. Phil and Liz were also entering the Gordon Bennett Rally in their 1929 Rolls Royce 20/25. David and Harry Groom had set off from Melton Mowbray a few days earlier to take their time across Wales and stop off to trace some family history. Len and the Watsons had trailered their cars up as far as Anglesey.

Thursday dawned a little grey but promising. Len and Conan set off ahead of the others at 0730hrs intending to make a relaxed journey and early arrival at the Holyhead ferry terminal, knowing that the Rhyl was the slowest car. 5 miles down the road we were climbing a slight incline (=big hill for the 9HP Rhyl) on the old A5 when we suddenly lost power and came to a halt – the engine would not restart. Gordon Bennett! We’d only just started the journey! The morning rush hour traffic was starting to build and with walls on either side we had no refuge to push the Rhyl to. We tested for fuel and spark,  to find that we had no spark. A kind chap stopped just in front of us and offered to tow us a few hundred yards up to a safe layby where we could continue our investigations. As we carried a spare magneto we decided we just about had time to fit that and still make the ferry – no way were we going to give in at this stage and fetch a modern car ! Magneto fitted, but not quite timed right, we headed off to the ferry, and made it with about 10 minutes to spare, hoping that was to be the last of our troubles.

We enjoyed a fast crossing on the Stenaline Express, drinking coffee and musing over what could have failed with the magneto. We came to the conclusion that perhaps the heavy rain and spray from the Len’s towcar the day before had perhaps made it’s way into the magneto.

On arrival in Dun Laoghaire we headed straight for our nearby B&B, Tara Hall, where our hosts Mike and Margaret Beck made us very welcome and provided special parking for our cars. Tara Hall used to be a Preparatory School and George Bernard Shaw attended the school. Len and Conan spent an hour or so adjusting the timing and checking the car over ready for the next few days around the Irish roads. Barry and Clive set about the unenviable task of polishing all the brass on the huge Model G – why hadn’t they brought the chauffeur? Gordon Bennett ! Then it was off to the local hostelry for a pint or two of Ireland’s finest human engine oil – Guinness. Oh, it tastes so much better in Ireland. In the evening we took the train into Dublin centre and enjoyed an evening meal in the restaurant of Wynns Hotel.

Friday arrived and after a great Irish breakfast it was time for a little more polishing before heading out for the 1.5 hour drive for Rally Registration at a Mercedes Dealership at Naas, County Kildare, about 30 miles southwest of Dublin. We decided to use the M50 ring road despite the Rhyl’s cruising speed of around 35mph and it was a fantastic sight to see the Model G, Rhyl and Gordon England on the 3 lane motorway. The Model G is a big car, but it’s still dwarfed next to some of our modern lorries, in the tiny 2 seater Rhyl and Gordon England the feeling of exposure was high on the big road. After just a couple of miles, Clive decided to stretch the Model G’s legs and he soon shot off to challenge the 56mph limited lorries – Gordon Bennett – I hope he doesn’t have to stop quickly though. For a car celebrating it’s 100th Birthday this year it is quite some machine but with its 4 litre 6 cylinder engine it has plenty of power to shift the 2 ton body. The Rhyl behaved perfectly so we were confident that the previous day’s problem was solved.

We were among the first to arrive and over the course of the next hour some incredible machinery from 1900 to 1930 arrived to fill the Mercedes car park. I was astounded at the variety, rarity and perfection of these historic cars, all in perfect working order and ready for a weekend of driving. I felt proud that our Standards were in the company of some truly great cars – fifteen Rolls Royces including four Silver Ghosts, seven Alvis, three Bentley tourers, Martini Roi de Belge, Aston Martin, Stutz Bearcat, fourteen Vauxhalls to name a few.

After a great hot lunch in the Showroom  hosted by the staff of the Mercedes dealership we set off to our Rally HQ, the Mount Wolseley Hotel, just outside Tullow with a stop on the way at The Curragh military camp where there was a display of military vehicles. About three quarters of the way into our 40 mile run, the Rhyl again spluttered to a halt and we managed to push it into a layby. Gordon Bennett! Len was starting to search through his phone’s contacts for the phone number for Bonhams the Auctioneers, while Conan dug out the toolbox. This time it was dirt in the main jet, despite the in-line filter. A quick cleanout of the jets soon sorted that out and we were once again on our way – these old cars really are very easy to fix by the side of the road.

The Watsons were staying at Rally HQ, while the Grooms, Len and Conan were staying in the Sherwood Park House, where the Standard party stayed last year. You could not find a warmer welcome than from Paddy and Maureen. The only rule Maureen seems to lay down is that you enjoy yourself; with her boundless generosity and superb food and Paddy's gift for hilarious one-liners, it is not hard to enjoy your stay. The house is a fine example of early Irish Georgian and we all had large well-furnished rooms. That evening Paddy drove us into Bunclody where we again enjoyed some traditional Irish fayre.

Saturday morning dawned without a cloud in the sky – a complete contrast to last year. We were in for a perfect day for exploring Ireland’s best roads. Maureen would have fed us a fantastic breakfast all day and seemed surprised when we said we had had enough. The springs on the Rhyl had taken a bit of a pounding the day before with two up plus weekend luggage and a grease cap for the wheel bearing had punched a hole in the boot woodwork. Conan pleaded ‘not-guilty’ as it was on the driver’s side – we had better watch what we eat! Heading the few miles back to the Mount Wolseley Hotel we rejoined the 184 entrants, collected our Route Notes, forgot to synchronise our watches with Rally Control Time and prepared for the start at 0930hrs. The slowest cars start first and there are three different routes. It’s a navigation exercise at a very leisurely pace with four regularity sections, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. Each car is given a time to start the section and an average speed they must maintain – we’ll be better prepared next year! Gordon Bennett – too many rules, can’t we just enjoy the drive and look at the scenery. There is actually plenty of time to enjoy the route and even stop for coffee, tea or another Guinness (for the Navigators) and our routes often criss-crossed with faster cars overtaking us or joining from another direction. We had a good lunch stop at the Gordon Bennett 1903 Race Memorial stone, a chance to catch up with the other Standards, make new friends and have a closer look at other cars. We were fortunate to meet up with another Irish Standard Owner, Steve Gallichan who is busy restoring a 1930 16 H.P. Ensign Saloon.   We compared stories about the Regularity sections over lunch and discovered that we hadn’t taken note of the Regularity Start Time sheet, so we planned our afternoon a little more carefully, at least to try to get the Standard name among the prizes. All seemed to go to plan. All the Standards behaved perfectly today, even the Rhyl, and we completed the route and headed back to the Sherwood Park Hotel for afternoon tea, a shower and to smarten up for the Evening Dinner and Prizegiving. Paddy kindly drove us up to the Mount Wolseley just in case we all happened to have a few drinks! Pre-dinner drinks were accompanied by introductory speeches by the Mayor of Tullow and Chairman of Tourism. We had a lovely meal which was followed by more speeches and the Prizegiving. Len went up to receive the prize for 3rd place in Class B (Veteran Cars 1905-1918) just behind a Rover 12HP and the Stutz Bearcat, with Barry and Clive in the Model G taking 10th place and Jim O’Farrell taking 29th. There were 43 cars in Group B. David and Harry Groom also took a very worthy 8th place in Class C2 (Vintage Cars 1927-1930) out of 79. Proud of our results and having had a great evening we watched the driver of a 1912 Renault 20HP light his acetylene gas headlamps and head back to Sherwood Park House.

Sunday dawned overcast with the promise of some Irish mist (heavy rain) later. Another great breakfast from Maureen (we won’t be needing lunch) and we were on our way back to the Mount Wolseley for the start of Day 3, this time a route heading back towards Dublin but with a stop at Carlow’s new arts centre for the launch of
an exhibition of photographs titled "GORDON BENNETT REMEMBERED" commemorating 107 years of the Gordon Bennett Race by and from the collection of Dublin photographer George Stuart. This exhibition gave us the opportunity to view a large number of rare photographs (many never seen before) of Gordon Bennett eligible cars and early veteran and vintage events in Ireland.  

Rather than head back to Dublin up the motorway we decided to take a more scenic route along the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. The dark clouds were gathering and we knew our luck was running out. Saturday’s weather had been too good to be true and after all you can’t come to Ireland and expect not to have a drop of rain can you? They were thunderstorms and we managed to stay just on the edge of them. Irish roads have a reputation for not being the most perfect and with the rain filling in some of the holes we just had to make sure we dodged them all, however on a left hand bend at about 25mph there was a huge bang, the Rhyl tipped up onto the offside wheels and the back end jumped out. Len’s quick reactions steered into the ‘jump’ and we returned to the straight ahead – GORDON BENNETT !!! That was some hole we had just hit. All felt fine with the steering but nevertheless we found the next pull-in so that we could take a look at the wooden spoked wheel and leaf springs. By some miracle all was well. It really had sounded like something must surely have broken but no, the little Rhyl was fine. We carried on – a little more cautiously, dodging every puddle that might be hiding another hole. We stopped for a very late lunch as our breakfast seven hours previously was beginning to wear off. We regrouped with the other Standards and dried out a little before heading off for the final stretch back to the Tara Hall B&B in Dublin. It poured down, Ireland’s best, but all of the Standard’s made it safely back.

The following day we had a leisurely start before making the lunchtime crossing of the Irish Sea in the company of some of the other UK cars.

The Gordon Bennett Rally is a great event in the company of some truly outstanding cars and their owners on some beautiful driving roads. The Irish hospitality exceeded their reputation and when the sun shone on Saturday’s main driving day and the Rhyl was singing along, nothing could have been better. The Model G enjoyed it’s 100th Birthday treat; the Gordon England carried David and Harry safely and reliably from Melton Mowbray, on a tour of Wales and Ireland and home again; Len has deleted the Bonhams contact number from his phone and will be keeping the reliable Rhyl, looking forward to the next International Gordon Bennett Rally of Ireland.

Report on the 2010 Gordon Bennett Rally, kindly supplied by Conan Lewis.

1926 Standard SLO4 Stratford

I was lent this magnificent car for the 2008 event

Gordon Bennett 2010 - 1910 model G and 1913 Rhyl

Picture courtesy of Steve Gallichan
Although not pictured in Ireland. This 1927 V4

made the trip in 2009, driving all the way from Bristol, with three people on board.
3rd in class B for cars 1905 - 1918

43 entrants in the class