Mercedes Benz Gordon Bennett International Rally
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 2010Friday 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
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.
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