Sunbeam MCC 70th Pioneer Run
Brighton, Sunday 9th March 2008
The 2008 season for historic motor
cycle events commenced, as is traditional, with those stalwarts of pre-1915
machinery braving the early spring weather to ride from Tattenham Corner on
the Epsom Downs to Brighton’s Madeira Drive on the seafront.
The run was earlier than usual this year,
I assume because Easter was early. (Strange, Easter is always either 'early'
or ‘late’. I’ve yet to hear someone say, ‘Easter’s about right this year’!)
The weather is always the big unknown - especially so this year with the
event two weeks earlier than normal. However, contrary to all expectation, the
sun appeared practically on cue to give us a burst of sunshine between the drizzly, grey skies
of the day before, and
lashing rain and gales that were to follow the day after the event.
The seafront gathering was the usual
good natured mix of leather-clad bikers, traditionalists in wax cotton and
the gentleman veteran motorcyclists in tweed and deerstalker. Not forgetting
the long-suffering ‘better halves’. That said, there was a strong contingent
of lady motorcyclists; and, beneficial for the future of the event, a
healthy number of youngsters, too. The youngest was possibly the dummy-sucking
infant seen squeezed with family into a 1914 Triumph combination!
Riders are announced as they arrive
– a few of the clutch-less preferring not to pull up for the commentator!
Helpful tannoy messages included a warning to one rider that his petrol
tank had seemingly fractured, with petrol seeping out. Not that anyone would
notice with the smell of petrol masked by the hundreds of plates of chips as
riders and spectators re-fuel!
£2 buys a programme and entrance to
the paddock with its wealth of overheard conversations; one ‘grey beard’
advising his concerned family that he had clearly said they would find him either at the
finish … or in hospital en route! There is fascinating talk about veteran
riding techniques to eavesdrop, along with much exercising of knee joints
as the idiosyncrasies of early engines are explained.
Amongst the 364
entrants this year were a fine collection of early Sunbeams in the third of
the event’s three classes which covers the years 1910-1914. There were three
excellent examples of the 2¾ hp (350cc) model from 1913. Their larger 3½ hp
(500cc) relative, hitched to a sidecar appeared in the programme but was not
to be seen. From 1914, there were a couple of 3½ hp (500cc) machines and a
JAP-engined v-twin of 770cc.
Also in evidence
were a couple of big ‘model D’ 700cc V-twin AJS machines and a lovely little
269cc Wolf of 1914 (see photos below).
A couple of later Sunbeams were also in
attendance amongst spectators’ machines: a flat tank, side-valve of c.1928
(see photo below) and a later saddle tank from the early 1930s which
disappeared before I had chance to snap it.
final delight for the Pioneer Run crowd and the curious mid-morning
promenader, the following collection was placed on display. Even amongst a collection of the rare and unusual the
downright odd has a place, too ...