[Updated: launch photograohs added] The coastal village of John O’ Groats is set to swell with international visitors when one of the most glamorous events in the world stops over there this winter.
In 1926 Scotsman Victor Bruce left the village at the north easterly tip of Britain on a 2500km journey to the French Riviera in the famous Monte Carlo Rally.
Against the odds, he became the first Briton to win the endurance rally; a feat which is set to be re-enacted this January, on the 90th anniversary of the victory.
While the starting cities for the Monte Carlo Classic Rally are yet to be officially announced, John O’Groats will stage a special ‘ceremonial’ start as part of the wider epic event.
The send-off will see vintage vehicles leaving John O’Groats on 27th January , just as they did in their heyday – before joining the other competitors at the official Scottish start.
Not only has the historic twist been blessed by Prince Albert II of Monaco, it has been warmly welcomed by local businesses who are set to benefit.
Douglas Anderson from the organising Committee says: ‘It has taken two years of negotiations with officials in Monaco, but they love the historic aspect and we are delighted to add the John O’Groats send-off to the official Scottish start this year.
‘The village was once a popular start point for ‘The Monte’.
‘It put John O’Groats at the heart of what was a golden age of adventure and drivers chose it as an entry point because, in those days, you got extra points if you started as far away from Monte Carlo as possible.
‘It was a tough place to begin the journey over the English Channel and the Alps and, after the Second World War, it was discontinued. The the village, sadly, lost its connection with the Monte.
‘We are delighted, therefore, 90 years on from Bruce’s win, to re-establish that lost link.’
The 300-strong local population are gearing up for a touch of glamour during what is, traditionally, a quiet spell in the tourist season.
Walter Mowat, Director of the Seaview Hotel, says: ‘I’ve heard some of the older generations talking about the rally. They must have heard about it from their parents, so it is exciting to have it back after all these years.
‘We’ve had big events here before, like the Olympic torch, but nothing of this scale and prestige.
‘It’s great for businesses here, there is going to be a real buzz about the place and we hope this international event will bring lots of people into the area.’
The departing classics will head south on a route which will remain as faithful as possible to the roads traveled by Bruce in his winning UK-built AC car.
Two local clubs, The Caithness and Sutherland Vintage and Classic Vehicle Club and Caithness Car Club, will assist with the organisation.
One Caithness Car Club member, 26 year old Storeman from Thurso, James Slevin, plans to take part with co-driver, Callum Cameron from nearby Portskerra, saying: ‘It’s great that an event with so much history is going to start here again, and I think it is also important for someone local to do it to show that it is not just a thing of the past.’
Bert Macleod, Chairman of The Caithness and Sutherland Vintage and Classic Vehicle Club says: ‘This is great for John O’Groats, for the hotels and small businesses and it will be great for our club to be in the limelight for such a world famous event.’
Everything about this initiative is exciting and regenerative. Most of all, it stitches Scotland together, pulling the very remote north east back into conjunction with Scotland’s largest city, the engine of Glasgow – and taking the whole lot forward through Europe to Monte Carlo, the place that still conjures the frissons of the edgy glamour described by Somerset Maugham as ‘a sunny place for shady people’.
We will have photographs later today from the press call and photo-shoot at the reinvented SeaView Hotel at John O’Groats.
Update 20.30: The images have now been added and show:
- Top photo: Organiser Douglas Anderson [holding sign] with local drivers David Green (black car), Bert Cooper (grey car), Les Bremner (white car) and Bert Macleod (in green car) at the John O’Groats ceremonial start announcement.
- Photo 2: Local driver Bert Macleod revs up at the John O’Groats ceremonial start announcement.
- Photo 3: Cars Gather for the announcement that a ceremonial start for the Monte Carlo Classic Rally is to be staged at John O’Groats.
- Photo 4: Organiser Douglas Anderson [holding sign] with local drivers David Green (black car), Bert Cooper (grey car) and Bert Macleod (green car) at the John O’Groats ceremonial start announcement.