Our Glorious Leader (OGL)

Born the 13th of 12 children Our Glorious Leader (OGL) had a tough childhood and by the age of five could be found working in a motor vehicle salvage yard. Every day he would slip a spare part into the pocket of his smock until he had enough to assemble a complete car and by the age 6 the Austin Healy 100 was almost finished.

He was awarded a much sort after scholarship to the Braintree Academy of Welding and Dance and it was no surprise which the young OGL took to. His precocious talent was soon recognised by Sadlers Welders who after graduation placed him in their Corps de ballet. His meteoric rise is the stuff of legend and soon he was a principal dancer alongside Nureyev and Fonteyn. His downfall, for that is what it literally was, came during a performance of Swan Lake when during a complex “Batterie” he found that he was thrusting Nureyev high into the air rather than Fonteyn. The extra weight caused severe ligament damage as well as considerable embarrassment as the famously well endowed Nureyev landed astride the hapless young dancers face knocking out three of his teeth.

A change of career beckoned. His driving skills had been recognised early on and he had soon qualified as a Reliant Robin instructor. Amongst his pupils were some who went on to fame and fortune, both Graham Hill and James Hunt graduated from the Romford Robin School, but the young OGL was not satisfied with teaching others, he wanted to race himself. An opportunity beckoned just prior the 1968 Le Mans Race. The Reliant Robin works team had to withdraw at the last minute and our young hero seized his opportunity. Borrowing one of their cars he entered the race as a privateer.

At that time this classic race was started not on a conventional grid but with cars positioned at right angles to the racing line, the drivers having to run across the track, jump into their cars and set off. Slightly confused by the injury sustained during the Nureyev incident he had difficulty negotiating the track (as this rare image shows) and so all the other cars had set well before the young OGL was able to even open the door of his Robin.

Unfortunately as the other cars were now out of sight and our hero made a serious mistake, he turned left instead of right. The works Robin had a surprising turn of speed and within 15 minutes he was approaching the first corner. To his horror so were the leading cars but in the opposite direction. As they flashed past he furiously remonstrated with them, eventually all the cars had passed him and for a while there was a clear road ahead.

As single privateer without a co-driver the young OGL was well aware that 24 hours was a long time to race so he sensibly parked up on a verge and using his primus stove made a cup of tea. It was a hot June day and coupled with the inhalation of paraffin vapour he soon he felt drowsy and quickly fell asleep. He slept on for some time and awoke to see the other cars still racing in the wrong direction, but now it was dark.

He set off once again and eventually reached the Mulsanne Straight where cars regularly attained a speed of 200 mph and it was here that the incident occurred. The Robin having just three wheels was not very stable especially at speeds above 20 mph so OGL decided that sticking to the centre of this long straight was the most sensible option. Unfortunately the other cars were now speeding towards him in pitch black darkness. As each one approached they had to swerve violently in order to avoid a collision. In the resulting chaos it transpired that every other car had run off the track, some overturning in fields others landing in the river that adjoins the track. Blissfully unaware of the carnage that he was leaving behind him he continued on as dawn broke and a warm summer’s day progressed. 

Eventually he could see the grandstands in the far distance and knew that the home straight would not be far away. With a final flourish and gripping the steering wheel as hard as he could, he decided that now was the time to change into third gear. To his amazement every face in the crowd was looking in the other direction, even a man holding the chequered flag. But as he passed the finish line a great roar went up as the occupants of the grandstand suddenly noticed the triumphant Reliant Robin. And to this day this is the only Le Mans 24 Hour Race where the winner only completed a single lap.

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