Every year since 1970 on the third Thursday in November a motor racing event like no other starts one minute after midnight when teams of enthusiasts leave French vineyards with cases of the latest Beaujolais red wine in their Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Porsche and Aston Martin supercars, along with other classic cars, 4x4’s and specialist cars.
The competitors embark on an endurance race to be the first back to the UK with the new season’s bottles of the famous Beaujolais red wine, and all in the name of charity. They must navigate their own way, with prizes for the most money raised and the shortest distance covered to the finishing point in the UK.
Echoing what took place in the late 1960’s when Ford took on Ferrari at the famous Le Mans 24 Hour sports car race (and won), two Englishmen decided to take on the Ferrari’s and other supercars in a Ford during the 1984 Beaujolais Run®. What’s more business partners Andrew Scott and Paul Clarke would be using their Ford Granada 2.8 Ghia saloon to pull a 1984 Ace Diplomat touring caravan all the way back to the finish line in Birmingham, stopping off in London at the Earls Court Caravan and Motorhome Show.
Car enthusiasts Andrew Scott and Paul Clarke own The Caravan Company, the UK’s largest used touring caravan retailers with branches in Northamptonshire and Dorset. Back in 1984 they also had a site in Leicester where they started their journey to France ahead of the return trip back to the UK stocked with cases of the famous French wine. Andrew Scott said “There were a few raised eyebrows on the Ferry to France when we joined the sports and supercars on route to France with our car and caravan combination”.
The Beaujolais Run® in 1984 was jointly sponsored by the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Evening Mail and West Midlands Ferrari dealer Colmore. Starting point was a Chateau and vineyard in Bron, just south of the French capital of Gastronomy, Lyon.
Entrants were treated to a sumptuous dinner on Wednesday evening ahead the start at one minute past midnight. Paul Clarke remembered: “There was plenty of wine on the table but no one drank any because we all had to drive back to the UK”.
At one minute past midnight on Thursday 15th November 1984 the gates that had kept competitors in the Chateau were unlocked and they set off on the journey back to the UK. “Speed limits on the French Autoroutes weren’t what they are today, and whilst I cannot recall the precise speed we averaged, I do remember our fuel consumption was just 11mpg” said Paul. That meant the pair had to stop for extra fuel and missed an earlier Ferry back to Dover, and the chance of bragging rights over some of the Ferrari and other supercar drivers.
The Earls Court Caravan and Motorhome Show was the leisure industry’s biggest event of the year. Manufacturers would launch their new caravans for the following season, and it was the public’s first opportunity to see the latest models all in one place. The Motorhome and Caravan Show held at the Birmingham NEC every October replaced the Earls Court Show, which was last held in November 2005.
Andrew and Paul arrived at Earls Court in time for the show to open, where they sold their cases of Beaujolais to the some of the UK’s leading caravan manufacturers like Bailey, Elddis and Swift, raising over £700 (£2170 today’s value) for good causes in the UK.
After the Earls Court stop off it was back on the road and onto Birmingham and the finishing line at the Holiday Inn Hotel. Andrew Scott and Paul Clarke arrived just after 1pm in the afternoon on Thursday 15th November 1984, having travelled over 740 miles in just 13 hours pulling a caravan! They might not have beaten the Ferrari’s on this occasion but they raised a lot of awareness for the caravan industry and good amount of money for charity too.