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Sunbeam MCC 71st Pioneer Run
Brighton, Sunday 22nd March 2009

The first Sunday in spring arrives ... and at around 10am so do the first Pioneer machines on Brighton's Madeira Drive, having set off from Tattenham Corner on Epsom Downs some two hours earlier. It's pleasing once again to able to make it to the world's largest gathering of veteran (pre-1915) machines commemorating motorcycling's pioneer years.

Full of the joys of the fine spring morning (and a large hotel breakfast) we arrive at Madeira Drive to see the first arrivals. The weather couldn't be better: sunshine and blue skies with a fresh gentle breeze - well here on the coast. It had made for for enjoyable riding we were told by the the owner of one machine, as we wandered through the paddock.

Before our root around the gathering machines like many others we settled ourselves in with a cup of tea, camera at the ready to watch the arrivals complete the run along Madeira Drive. As it is not a competitive run machines arrive, barring mishaps, roughly in the order they set off. So it pays to be early to see the arrival of the oldest 'Class 1' machines that pre-date 1905. The opportunity of seeing a Victorian motor cycle (well, mostly tricycles!) on the road is a real incentive to get there early. That, and getting a good seat at one of Madeira Drive's cafés!

Celebrations this year are for Morgan's centenary. As a special dispensation an accurate reconstruction of the first three-wheeled Morgan cyclecar of 1909, built by Morgan expert Chris Booth, is allowed to enter the run. I didn't manage to catch it but No.79 above is a fine example of the marque from 1914. No mention unfortunately of the centenaries being celebrated by two of Wolverhampton's finest marques, AJS Motor Cycles and Clyno, although examples of both are present amongst the entries.

There are 40 'Class 1' entries, the oldest machines which cover the period to 1904. Amongst them are 7 machines that pre-date 1900 - mostly Leon Bollee tricycles and forecars with the exception of a De Dion, a Deschamps and a Phebus. It all feels very Jules Verne as some of the early machines make their way along the seafront towards the finish.

Following these are this year's 32 'Class 2' entries which cover the period 1905-1909. Prevalent amongst the variety of manufacturers represented are 9 Triumphs from 1908 and '09.

And finally, the largest number of entries by far fall into 'Class 3' covering the 5 years from 1910 to 1914. There are 288 entries listed in the programme - amongst them are the 10 Sunbeams that I am hoping to catch sight of. By the time the later machines are arriving, the paddock is filling up so it's time to pay our £2 for a programme and make our way amongst the machines.

This years 'Beam spotting requires we look out for 7 machines from 1913 and 3 from 1914 ...

No.105 - HK 4799, a 3.5 h.p. (500cc) machine from 1913 with sidecar, seen here arriving at the finish (photo below).

No.107 - BD 4127, a 2.75 h.p. (350cc) machine from 1913 ridden by Sunbeam and AJS stalwart Jane Ackers (photo below).

No.111 - K 2924, a 3.5 h.p. (500cc) machine from 1913, complete with leg shields and unorthodox carburettor ... from a Triumph? (two photos below).

No.121 - D 9310, a 2.75 h.p. (350cc) machine from 1913, seen here arriving in convoy along Madeira Drive with Brighton Pier in the background (photo below).

No.129 - M 3122, a 6 h.p. JAP-engined v-twin machine from 1913 (photo below).

No.163 - MKM 672, a 2.75 h.p. (350cc) machine from 1913, inducing delight in the eyes of a future 'Beamer? (2 photos below)


No.213 - KE 9905, a 2.75 h.p. (350cc) machine from 1913 which was included in the programme evaded my camera.

The programme also included three Sunbeams from 1914. These were ...

No. 91 - SE-0767, a 6 h.p. JAP-engined v-twin machine from Germany, seen here arriving (photo below).

No.313 - HV 6432, a 3.5 h.p. (500cc) machine from 1914 which escaped my lens.

No.335 - AE 7221, a 3.5 h.p. (500cc) model  from 1914 (photo below).

Not included in the programme was the late-comer CC1005, a 3.5 h.p. (500cc) machine - unknown as to whether it is dated 1913 or 1914 (photo below).

I also keep a look out for Sunbeam's Wolverhampton rivals. There are five AJS machines to look out for according to the programme: four models from 1913 and a solitary 1914 model. I don't manage to catch the big AJS 700cc v-twin machines on camera  (No.185 - SL 9975; No.262 - KT 6674 and No.280 - P 8957).

... But I do catch No.75, appropriately registered AJ 1710, a 350cc machine from 1913 (2 photos below).

... Plus, a solitary AJS machine from 1914: No.268, S 4620, a 350cc model (3 photos below).

There are a couple of Wolverhampton-made Clyno motorcycles entered: No.334, a 744cc v-twin from 1913 (AD 4850) and No.347, a similar machine from 1913 with side car (BW 1466), plus a single Wolverhampton-made Wolf from 1914. Unfortunately, none one of these are 'snapped' with my camera.

Presentations for the riders are to commence at 2pm with mayors from Brighton and Hove and Epsom in attendance - the latter we are informed in the programme is a keen motorcyclist. However, by this time we are heading into the town in search of lunch, catching a number of late-comers tackling the last traffic roundabout from Old Steine before turning into Madeira Drive.


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