Royal Automobile Club hosts The Beaujolais Run 2014 departure in Epsom
PUBLISHED: 16:22 24 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:28 24 September 2014
An unconventional event, which has grown from a race into bringing samples of wine back to the UK in the quickest time possible, the 2014 Beaujolais Run will start at Woodcote Park's The Royal Automobile Club, Britain's oldest motoring organisation.
Every year, the third Thursday of November is a very special day for the inhabitants of the little French town of Beaujeu, just north of Lyon.
At one minute past midnight, the Nouveau Beaujolais wine is released and the locals can start celebrating their year of labour by drinking the results of their endeavours.
Initially a race to get the first bottle back to England, now with patron John Surtees behind it, The Beaujolais Run has become a navigational shootout through a cryptic checkpoint course that begins in the UK and ends in Burgundy, France, with sponsorship funds going to the Henry Surtees Foundation.
The concept for The Beaujolais Run was created in 1970 at the Hotel Maritonnes, when Joseph Berkmann and Clement Freud were sharing a dinner of Coq au Vin.
Owner of eight London restaurants - Berkmann also ran his own wine distribution company and wrote a weekly column for The Sunday Times.
Clement Freud was Director of the London Playboy Club, a respectable Member of Parliament and wine correspondent for The Sun.
Motivated by an evening sampling the gastronomy of Romanèche and a fierce competitive streak, the wine merchant and politician laid down a challenge; a race to see who could be the first to return several cases.
For a couple of years that followed, the race was a purely private affair between Berkmann and Freud. Having taken pot-shots at each other through their respective wine columns, word got around, and The Beaujolais Run was born.
In 1973, Alan Hall, columnist for The Sunday Times, published an article and threw down the gauntlet to Fleet Street to ‘Bring Back the Beaujolais’ offering a bottle of Champagne for the first to deliver a bottle of the new vintage to his desk.
At that time, the object of the exercise was speed and this was brought to an end by the RAF, who later took up the challenge in a Harrier and broke all records!
Since then, The Beaujolais Run has evolved beyond private one-upmanship with a focus on speed and bragging rights into something far larger in scale and honourable in intention.
The Run has become a navigational shootout through a cryptic checkpoint course that begins in the UK and ends with a lavish dinner with the mayor of Beaujolais, where the teams join winemakers of the region to carry a lit vine clipping to witness to official release of the Beaujolais.
The Beaujolais Run is open for all classic cars, supercars, four wheel drives and touring motorcycles to enter with each team competing for the honour of achieving P1 on the grid the following year (highest fundraising team) and P2, the team that covers the shortest distance on the navigational trial between Rheims and Macon after visiting ‘secret’ way-points en route.
Throughout the Run, participants are treated to an extraordinary selection of ‘money can’t buy’ experiences.
In 2010, John Surtees was appointed the event patron; with all sponsorship funds going directly to The Henry Surtees Foundation; a UK charity inspired by the memory of John Surtees’ late son Henry who was tragically killed in an accident at Brands Hatch in 2009.
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