‘Le Jog’ – a magnet to the competitive spirit
Words and images by Peter Baker

The 847-mile journey from Land's End to John o' Groats has always provided a magnet to the competitive spirit.

In 1892 Evelyn Burnaby set the ball rolling by being the first person to cover the distance, riding a horse. Since then it has been run in seventeen days, and cycled by two men on a tandem in, a hardly believable, one day, twenty-one hours and eleven minutes. Madness personified medal, however, goes to Sean Conway, who managed somehow to swim from Land's End to John o' Groats in just over three months.

Closer to home, the first motoring attempt at a record time was accomplished in 1911, when Ivan B Hart-Davies rode his single-speed Triumph motorcycle, covering 886 miles in twenty-nine hours, twelve minutes. As his average speed exceeded the national limit further attempts were banned. Seventy-three years later, Neil Champion made a mockery of the rules by taking just eleven hours and fourteen minutes riding a Kawasaki GPZ750 Turbo.

The Land's End to John o' Groats Reliability Trial, or 'Le Jog' as it has been affectionately colloquially renamed, ran for the first time in 1983 and was the brainchild of ex-RAC Rally-winning navigator John Brown. A man with inbuilt devious intentions the distance between the extremes was extended to some fourteen hundred miles, by taking in the wildest areas of Wales, the Lake District and Scotland. In those early days, until police intervention, the distance had to be covered almost without a break. Although in 2016 the challenge for classic cars and their crews remains essentially the same, in other words a combination of road navigation, regularity sections and special off-road tests, the event, organised by HERO, has been extended to incorporate more rest time.

'LeJog' was never designed to produce an outright winner, the handicapping system instead creating medal winners, the most covetable being a 'Gold'. This incentive for owners of older cars to compete on level terms has declined, perhaps because of higher investment values of pre-war cars, and the event is now dominated by later, higher performance cars.

For those of you of a certain age, and without a suitable vehicle, take heart; in September 2016 Mr. Clive Burgess, using just his bus pass, and with thirty-one changes, covered the distance between Land's End and John o' Groats in three days, eight hours and fifty-five minutes. The competitive spirit lives on….