The 9th Flying Scotsman 2017
31 March – 2 April, 2017
The 9th Flying Scotsman 2017 - Rally Reports
Visit the Flying Scotsman Photo Gallery to find Gerard Brown's event photographs
Link to the comprehensive 2017 Flying Scotsman Results Book
Day Three - Aviemore to Gleneagles Finish
The Cairngorm Mountains, menacing, brooding, cold and windy were our playground for today with a southerly sweep from Aviemore to the finish at Gleneagles. The rain had stopped and the day dawned bright and clear but as a result there was a definite chill in the air as the engines were fired up and the crews rugged themselves against the early spring sub-arctic conditions.
There were two sorts of competitor this morning. The first comprised those who were content with their position and wanted to get it all over and done with as quickly as possible and repair to the splendid hospitality afforded by the Gleneagles Hotel. The second were those who still felt that they still had something extra in the tank and were keen to get going to move themselves up into what they assumed was their rightful position.
It’s certainly been a tough two days so far and, as it is a Sunday, before the off this morning those crews who felt it necessary were offered spiritual guidance and a Sunday Service led by the Most Reverend Andy Inskip . This was a non-denominational affair and all were welcomed into his carpark Kirk whether they were Lagonda, Bentley, Vauxhall, Alvis or Frazer Nash.
The massed ranks of the navigators choir concluded the celebration with a heartfelt rendition of Guide Me Oh Thou Great Jehovah. Messrs Preston and Vincent - joint Clerks of Course - however were quick to point out that such divine intervention, like modern GPS equipment was clearly against the spirit of the event.
In the event though this appeal to a higher power was not wasted and by the days end and after 150 miles, the Sweeps had indeed performed a miracle in delivering the winner to the finish line with only seconds to spare.
Four regularities and four tests took the Rally on a helter-skelter ride alongside lochs, rivers, distilleries, castles and stately homes. There were coffee breaks and time controls at Blair Castle, Taymouth Castle and Strathallan Castle and another superb lunch at Ballathie. This final day was serving us a truly memorable Highland Fling.
By the time the strains of the Gleneagles Piper could be heard it was clear that we were to see an incredible result. As Fred Gallagher waved the chequered flag a well deserved first place went to Paul Crosby and Ali Procter in their tiny MG TB Supercharged. Second was again taken by the hard charging John Abel and Leigh Powley in their Lagonda LG45. Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison in Betsy, the Ford Model A took a commendable third place. David Ayre and Anthony Thompson took first place in the Pioneer Category aboard the incredible Itala.
The ‘Spirit of the Rally’ Award went to Mitch and Wendy Gross – BMW 328, while the Concours D’Elegance prize was taken by Clint and Brad Smith – Jaguar SS100
Paul Crosby was understandably delighted with this win and his car was the smallest on the top step of the podium since Andrew Davies Riley 12/4 held on for the win in 2011. In his own words Paul described his day. “This was an amazing result for us. Ali (the navigator) did a brilliant job. I’m overwhelmed, absolutely overwhelmed because we never thought we had any chance of coming here and winning. We’ve done two Flying Scotsmans and it’s a brilliant event – incredibly well organised. We were just really fortunate that we broke down at the right time if there is a right time to break down, and the sweep crews came along, helped us out, got us running not just once but twice. We were so lucky with the places we broke down at, otherwise we’d have seen a totally different result”.
The evening’s Gala prizegiving, jointly compèred by Rikki Proffit, Fred Gallagher and ERA Director, Jane Young, was a glittering and typically boisterous affair whereafter the Gleneagles ballroom rang to the sound of popping corks, excuses and opinions - and not necessarily in that order. The theory that the more rallies you do the luckier you get was also thoroughly debated over the course of the evening.
Tomorrow, work starts in earnest on the tenth edition of the Flying Scotsman.
Day Two - Edinburgh to Aviemore
How did the overnight leaders sleep we wonder; was it a sound and contented one or did their night consist of nervous and fitful snatches of slumber with vivid dreams filled with timecards, routebooks, speed tables and stop astride lines?
Some had been busy during the night though, Robert Abrey for example sourced and has decided to carry a second battery for the Chalmers which was dogged with electrical issues yesterday. We expect the old car to be running like a Toyota Prius at the end of the day.
Today was going to be a daunting one however well the crews slept but the Dalmahoy breakfast is well known to Flying Scotsman regulars for its ability to both calm nerves and fill the stomach. As a result, on leaving the dining area there were some crews who had to reassess the power to weight ratio of the vehicle / the engine and the occupants.
From the restart we enjoyed a short motorway run to warm the block and loosen the cylinders before hostilities were kicked opened with a short but thrilling ascent of the Bo'ness hill climb (the oldest in Scotland) and then another fast run alongside the Kelpies, to the much longer and slightly more scenic Regularity at the Path of Condie. The A team of marshals, Bob Redhead and Bruce Murgatroyd, were on the start clock here and sent the crews off into the hills where some reported wild deer running alongside them. The native red squirrels though didn't make an appearance.
A coffee break was taken at Scone Palace before the short hop to possibly the grandest Passage Control of the Rally in the grounds of Glamis Castle. The long driveway was a fitting runway for these fine old models to show themselves off to the tourists and sightseers.
There was another Regularity at Edzell to complete before the long pull to the lunch venue at Kincardine Castle. Before they could sit down to eat though the crews had to tackle another hill climb through the wooded grounds which eventually led them to the carpark. The meal was worth the wait and high praise was heaped upon the hospitality provided by the Laird and his wife, Andrew and Nicola Bradford. To aid the digestion, a short track test had been laid on soon after lunch at the Grampian Transport Museum.
The afternoon was given over to a tour of what can be described as Whisky Country via two regularities, a Time Control in Glenfiddich, a run through Glenlivet and a test in the grounds of the Balmenach distillery. Sadly there was no time to stop and take in a glass or two of the local brew although by all accounts the bar in the hotel of the Aviemore night halt was able to supply most of what the crews had missed along the way.
After another long, but satisfying day though the leaderboard has been well and truly shaken up.
Proving that it’s not how big it is but how you handle it, Paul Crosby and Ali Procter in a tiny little MG TB Supercharged have stormed into the lead tonight leap frogging John Abel and Leigh Powley with their Lagonda LG45 but who in turn are level second with the dangerous duo that is David Thomson and Alan Smith in a Talbot 105 Alpine. Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison in Betsy, their Ford Model A are fourth.
Peter Lovett, David Richards and their Frazer Nash BMW 328 have dropped to eighth place but, until last week, David the Prodrive and WRC supremo, probably thought that an old car was one you drove last season and this is his first ever vintage car rally.
Tomorrow is the day of reckoning and with three crews tied so closely it’s going to be a nail biter.
Day One - Slaley Hall to Edinburgh
The first ERA rally of the year is a landmark moment for many of us and we can only agree that Willy Nelson got it spot on when he declared that he just couldn’t wait to get on the road again, goin' places that he’d never been and seein' things that he may never see again.
Such was the upbeat feeling today, as around 100 eager, but slightly apprehensive crews, filed into breakfast and then sat mulling over what was to come. Thankfully, the weather was still being kind to us - by Northumbrian standards at least - and, as the crews were waved away by Rally Director Fred Gallagher from 7.31am onwards some even dared hope for a warm and dry day.
Today’s route was an L shaped affair from Slaley Hall, along and across the South Tyne to Carlisle, crossing into Scotland at Gretna, passing by the Solway Firth, and then pressing on into Dumfries and Galloway before striking North to Edinburgh via the Lanarkshire Hills. This is wild country with a turbulent past and the thick set bastles bear witness to the cattle rustling skirmishes which characterised the ancient Reiver lifestyle and echoing the Peking to Paris Rally, where crews traverse the Great Wall of China soon after leaving the start, today we crossed Hadrian's Wall.
There are some differences between these two structures of course, length, age and time it took to build them, but one thing unites them - neither can be seen from space. Whether anyone will build another wall so big that it Trumps this fact, remains to be seen.
Straight from the blocks though, the rally action started with a short sharp test a mere 300m from the off. Crews were faced with a looping lap of the beautifully manicured Slaley golf course before setting another course for the more open roads and wilder landscapes which feature in this part of the world.
Robert Abrey bogied at the first hole and we saw him broken down mid test with what he and Matthew thought was an ignition problem. They soon got themselves back on track and pressed on with the rest of the pack skipping morning coffee to catch up with their due time.
The first Regularity was at Featherstone Castle alongside the South Tyne and was soon followed by a tight and twisty navigational and passage control section around Knorren Lodge. The Time control and coffee stop at Comlongon Castle gave the crews a chance to catch their breath.
So far so good but here the rain began to fall and we saw Steven Snauwaert and Filip Delanote stopped by the side of the road putting up their hood. Charles Stuart Menteth on the other hand was also on the verge and had experienced a small electrical fire. He and Missy though were in the safe hands of sweeps Jamie Turner and Bob Harrod with just the slightest whiff off burning hanging in the air around the old Vauxhall.
Appreciative and friendly rally fans lined the pavements in many of the villages and hamlets along the route waving and cheering at the quintessentially quirky cavalcade. We were especially pleased to see long time ERA competitors Anthony and Pauline Mather cheering us on as well.
A long southerly loop took the Rally down Dumfries towards Dundrennan where a traditional Scottish lunch, comprising lamb curry and onion Bhaji’s was provided at the Dundrennan army camp canteen where there was also a Test and a Regularity to enjoy; and the sun came out too.
From the lunch halt and the army ranges then it was back northwards towards the third Regularity of the day at the Bridge of Urr. Unfortunately the Abrey's Chalmers was found sat by the side of the road once again. "It won't go forwards" was the succinct diagnosis provided by Matthew as the rest of the field roared past on their way to the timing point through some dramatic scenery through stands of Scots pine bent into the wind.
Singletrack roads lined with drystone walls rolled the Rally onwards towards the endless horizons and a then to a coffee halt at Drumlanrig Castle and a short, sharp forest test.
The Tinto Hills provided the last Regularity of the day on the run into the outskirts of Edinburgh and the Dalmahoy night halt where the carpark and the bar soon rang with tales of the day. We hear that we’ve lost Charlie Nearburg and James King as their 1927 Bentley Tourer has broken its clutch. Charles Graves and Kit Graves have also retired, their 1937 Bentley Derby Special lost its starter motor.
Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage’s 1933 Sunbeam 20hp Sports has blown a head gasket and most likely won’t restart tomorrow whilst Willy Van Loon and Koen Van Den Broeck’s Bentley Derby slid off into a tree and isn’t able to continue either. Caroline and Scott Greenhalgh also slid off but were towed back onto the straight and narrow and will be able to continue. Peter Neumark and Guy woodcock have also been forced to retire with a failed gearbox.
Richard Nichols meanwhile, back with us after abandoning the Peking to Paris in Kazan, suffered another problem today when he lost his electrics. But, thanks to a little local help in the shape of a farmer a new alternator was sourced and they were able to rejoin the Rally at the night halt.
After a day like today the publication of the results was keenly awaited and we see that John Abel and Leigh Powley in their 1937 - Lagonda LG45 finish the day in top spot with Peter Lovett and David Richards snapping at their heels in the nimble little 1937 - Frazer Nash BMW 328. The diminutive little outfit that is Paul Crosby and Ali Procter’s 1939 - supercharged MG TB is in third with less than 30 seconds between the three of them.
Theo Hunt and James Galliver meanwhile, the youngest of the crews here, gave a good showing in their 1933 - Frazer Nash TT REP finishing the day in 20th spot.
It’s not over though, by any means. Anthony Preston and Lee Vincent have warned that any overnight complacency could easily be punished by tomorrow's route. The Cairngorms beckon and they need to be treated with respect.
Thursday Pre-Start - Preparing for Departure
A spring in our step
Last time we were at Slaley Hall we went to bed with heavy wet snow falling onto the tonneaus and awoke to a thick crust of ice over the bonnets.
This time we’ve been a bit more fortunate though and along with the lambs in the fields and the yellow daffodils in the hedgerows there’s definitely a welcome hint of spring in the air. If the met office can be believed, the medical crew of Dr’s Paul Rees and Mark Snowden can most likely leave the hypothermia medicines locked away for the weekend.
This, the ninth edition of the Flying Scotsman, with the most northerly route yet, is about to start. It's short and sweet and by Sunday it'll all be over but between now and then we've got more than 750 miles of sublime motoring to enjoy, some fine hotels and a lot of great company.
Alfred Dunhill are also with us for the ride, purveyor of fine quality menswear and luxury accessories, they’ve been bowled over by the calibre of our entry list and we hope that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them. Additionally they're here with a film crew with an eye to immortalising these glorious old cars over the next few days.
It's been said before but it's worth saying again. Today we welcome old friends in new cars and some new friends in old cars and today was mainly devoted to pleasantries, renewing acquaintances and dealing with the necessary formalities such as signing on and having the car checked for eligibility and safety.
Anthony Preston and Lee Vincent, the route designers and Clerks of the Course have worked hard on this for the last year and, today the fruits of their labours were presented to the crews in their route books and associated maps. In the cafes and bars of this large and well appointed hotel eyes were narrowed, lips were pursed and breath was drawn sharply as the navigators began their assimilation and familiarisation.
This Flying Scotsman always attracts some exotic machinery and this year we're very pleased to see that the standards haven’t slipped and happy also to see the more mature end of the vintageant spectrum was also well represented with two Edwardian or 'brass era' cars lining up in the paddock.
Sat atop his redoubtable red Itala, David Ayre was ready to rock. The 1907 globetrotter is not only the oldest vehicle here but is probably the most widely travelled, with two Peking to Paris under its wheels alongside many more transcontinental excursions. Borghese's most minimal chariot however gave Geoff Doe, the MSA scrutineer something to think about - and many tick boxes on the check sheet were left unfilled. Indicators? Brake lights? Working speedometer?
The second golden oldie is in the hands of the father and son crew of Robert and Matthew Abrey. This year they have set aside their usual rivalry and have teamed up aboard the big Detroit dinosaur that is known to us as a 1913 Chalmers 10. Seen most recently on the runway at the London Excel car show, this is the fourth Flying Scotsman for this big old car. Matthew’s position in the navigators seat however does deprive us of the entertaining sight of his silver Model A cleaving its way along the highways and byways.
Max Stephenson, an ERA regular had been thought of as a Vauxhall diehard. He and Penny have travelled the world together but today, alongside fellow Griffin groupie, Andrew Duerden, he arrived in a sporty little 1933 - Aston Martin Le Mans.
Anthony and Fiona Galliers-Pratt have also felt the need to change things in their life and have swapped their tiny and cramped 1932 - Frazer Nash TT REP for a much larger and more comfortable 1926 - Bentley 3-4½. An expensive decision maybe but Anthony reckons he will save a fair old chunk of the outlay on not needing hours under a chiropractor for the next few weeks.
Nicolas Leonard is usually seen aboard a Bentley but this time he has brought his father along with a Vauxhall 30/98E.
Alan Beardshaw and Peter Fletcher were forced to change cars as they found what they thought was a cracked engine block pre-scrutineering. To play it safe they have had Alan's Jaguar SS100 shipped up to them and are confident of making the start in the morning.
Bob Compiet and Minouche den Doelder, regulars on both the Flying Scotsman and the Alpine Trial have also brought a new car in the elegant form of a Lagonda LG45.
Charles Bishop, oft’ espied ensconced in a Vauxhall 30/98 or more latterly a Frazer Nash; has this time settled himself into a Bentley. He and wife Nellie, along with Arthur and Hugo Manners in a Lagonda are fresh from bashing some Namibian dunes in a modern 4x4 so will also have to adjust their driving style to the narrow lanes and broken tarmac which they'll encounter.
Giselher Stauzebach and Gerd Kaut who were with us on the very first FS way back in 2009, in a 1935 - Lagonda M45 Tourer are back again but have swapped their ride for a 1931 - Bentley 6½ Tourer. Andreas Pohl and Rainer Wolf were also among the founding fathers and are back today having swapped their Bentley for a Lagonda. Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage, who were also with us in 2009 have stuck with their faithful Sunbeam 20hp Sports as have Geert van de Velde who is also back for more punishment on his sixth Flying Scotsman in his regular ride, another trusty Lagonda LG45.
We could have had a rally with two double winners on it but the late withdrawal of Gareth Burnett however, last year's winner, has thrown the field wide open. William Medcalf, the other double winner is definitely here but has probably ruled himself out of overall contention with his decision to take rookie navigator and journalist Hugh Francis Anderson along for the ride.
So, will Peter Kite and Terry Thorp with their 1934 Talbot 105 be able to repeat the winning ways they last saw during the 2015 Alpine Trial. Or - can David Thomson and Alan Smith step up a gear in their own Talbot, or maybe James Gateley and Tony Brooks in the big Cadillac which did so well in the Alpine Trial two years ago, can find an extra few bhp
Tomorrow will come soon enough though and the pieces will gradually begin to fall into place.
Finally we must wish Leigh Powley a very happy birthday.