The 10th Anniversary Flying Scotsman – 2018
2018 marked a special year for the Flying Scotsman, as it celebrated the 10th anniversary. London and Edinburgh were to be the start and finish locations for the event, just like the original in 2009, and the 94 crews taking part in Britain’s premier rally for vintage motor cars were in for a treat.
Day 0 – Brooklands – You can bank on it
The second event of the 2018 ERA calendar is about to kick off and this ‘home fixture’ is the longest running of them of them all. The tenth Flying Scotsman is something of a landmark for the Endurance Rally Association, and it’s great to see some of those early pioneers along with their cars back with us at Brooklands where it all began.
In 2009, Rudi Friedrichs, with his Alvis fresh from the Mongolian Steppes, lined up in Brooklands along with two Dutchmen, Wilhelmus Van Gemert & Johan De Swart who also greatly impressed us on Peking to Paris aboard their tiny little Singer Le Mans.
John Abel, David Ayre and Terence Bradley have also come back for more along with Gerry Acher & Bruce Young who brought an Aston Martin to the original party as did Alan and Tina Beardshaw whilst Andrew Bailey who was in a Bentley although this time he’s in a well travelled Stutz.
David Thomson is once again behind the wheel of his Talbot 105 Alpine with Alan Smith beside him who was also the route designer of the first three editions.
Today was a chance then for theses old timers to meet the freshers and to perhaps give them some insight as to what life was like back in the day.
Whatever their status though, all of the crews had to submit to the paperwork process, Eleonora Piccolo and Annette Daley ensured that everyone signed on the dotted line whereafter they were given their ID tags and rally paraphernalia.
The massive sweep team of Andy Inskip, Russ Smith, Jamie Turner, Bob Harrod, Peter and Betty Banham, Rob Kitchen and Wayne Dent set up a scrutineering pen into which the cars were driven to be checked for eligibility and safety along with special guest, Geoff Doe from the MSA.
Looking around the car park, we expect the competition to be brisk this year as there are four former winners with us, Andrew Davies – 2011, William Medcalf – 2014 & 2015, Gareth Burnett – 2013 & 2016 and last year’s victor, Paul Crosby. Add to this high octane mix the likes of James Gateley, Graham Goodwin, John Abel and Bill Cleyndert and fireworks will surely follow.
Clerk of the Course, Anthony Preston has once again delivered the route book and devised the tests, and from a cursory glance at the highlights section we see that over the next three days the cars will cover 726 miles and negotiate 13 Tests and 15 Regularities.
Tomorrow there’ll be more last minute scrutineering for the latecomers before a quick bite of lunch and then the flag will drop at 13.01 signalling that the Flying Scotsman is once again pulling out of the station.
Day One – Brooklands to Luton – What a day, what a route?
From the cradle of British motoring and the world’s first purpose-built motor racing circuit, to one of the hot beds of British motor manufacturing. This first half day of the Flying Scotsman was an ideal way for the crews to settle themselves into the rhythm of the event.
There were some last minute scrutineering and minor repairs to be undertaken down in the carpark this morning, between the rain showers, and news also came through that the little Singer LeMans of Johan De Swart and Wilhelmus Van Gemert had broken down on the motorway. This crew, we heard, would definitely not be going us again this year. Additionally, Andrew Long’s Bentley also gave up the ghost on the run to the start so he and co driver Rob Stanton returned home to fetch plan B, a 1968 – MGC GT.
Following a buffet lunch, the Rally was flagged away at 1.01pm precisely and the first obstacle to overcome was the infamous, but always enjoyable hill climb Test, preceded this time with a figure of eight loop down on the site of the old finishing straight.
First away was David Ayre’s Itala, last seen in a sorry state awaiting a ship from Saigon, minus one wheel and a half shaft. In a little less than two weeks since its return to the UK Borghese’s Chariot has been repaired and restored to full running order and, with newly restored headlamps blinking in the sunlight it cut a fine sight as Fred Gallagher dropped the Union Jack in front of the famous clocktower.
From the start line to the test was only some 30 metres but steady as she goes was the watchword here. Its hard to win this event on the first day but very easy to lose it with a heavy foot or a moments inattention.
The hill at Brooklands is a steep one but, despite any impressions to the contrary, old clutches, brakes and throttles can overcome this gradient – but only if they’re used correctly and here lies the rub. The dividing line between driver ability and mechanical capability is a fine one and must be respected. And sometimes, discretion needs to take precedence over valour. So it was then that the two Pioneer cars of David Ayre and Andrew Bailey sensibly came to a gentleman’s agreement not to tempt fate too much and both ducked out of the hill after taking on the slalom and cone test.
The rest of the crews gave it all that they could with Gareth Burnett rocketing around the circuit in his little Alta with its doors flapping and tyres squealing much to the delight of the crowds.
Once out of Brooklands, the rally was then faced with some 70 miles of the densely populated and built up home counties region. From the Surrey Hills to the Chiltern Hills, those who know the area knew that this could have been a bit of a slog to say the least, if not for the route so expertly devised by Anthony Preston. Over the course of the afternoon the only queues which the crews saw were those for the start of the tests or the refreshments at the coffee halts. Mile after mile of minor road were linked together to give us a tricky passage control section around Burnham Beeches, an exciting closed road Test in the grounds of Penn House and a challenging Regularity in the Chilterns. Over freshly ploughed farmland and bluebell lined woodlands, the lanes of Southern England delivered the Flying Scotsman to the Luton Hoo Hotel, in a most befitting style.
The official welcome dinner was this evening and, after the meal, the speeches and the introductions it was time to digest the results.
After this short, yet sweet session it was the Bentley Super Sports of William Medcalf and Andy Pullan in top spot, followed very closely by Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison in another Super Sports and Gareth Burnett and Matthew Vokes in the rare blue Alta, both these crews being just one second behind the day one leader.
Tomorrow, the rally begins in earnest with a full day steaming up the East coast and there’ll be some keen to shovel some more coals on the fire.
Day Two – Luton Hoo to Forest Pines – Watersports
The first full day of the rally dawned with heavy rain falling and with more promised for the rest of the day. The forecast wasn’t good and sadly in the event it turned out to be pretty accurate.
The first five miles of the route was easy however and for a short distance saw the crews heading north on the M1 and flying in the face of a torrent of southbound commuters locked in a ribbon of gridlock. The sight of 100 vintage cars thundering along must have given their drivers something to smile about as they crawled past the new town of Milton Keynes.
The Rally left the motorway here and rejoined its more familiar habitat, the minor roads which led us to Newport Pagnell and then to Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire for the first of five Regularities and Time Control sections with tricky navigation and multiple timing points to contend with.
A Test at Grafton Underwood allowed the drivers to let off a bit of steam on a mixed surface around an old airbase which featured plenty of gravel, woodland concrete and mud. This was fast and furious and for some the temptation was surely to let rip and give it their all but, with dozens of marshals watching closely for cone penalties and stop astride infringements, it paid not to get too throttle happy.
A cooling down period was offered with the coffee break at Boughton House whereafter another long Regularity was tackled at High Leicestershire where we were also the guests of Mark and Robert Wilkinson, long time ERA competitors, who generously allowed us to dodge the sheep on part of their magnificent estate.
A Test at Belvoir Castle sharpened the appetites of the crews and then led them to a superb and timely lunch in the Great Hall. There was no time to get too comfortable in front of the roaring log fire though, for straight after the meal it was back behind the wheel for another Belvoir Test.
The Flying Scotsman had a head of steam well and truly up now and, by the time the Cross Britain Way Regularity appeared in the Route Book, those on the footplates were shovelling coal as fast as they could to keep up with the schedule. After this Regularity came a couple of laps of the tight and twisty Ancaster Karting track followed by a short rest with coffee at Woodall Spa.
The Lincolnshire Wolds were next up with a looping Regularity over ploughed fields and emerging rape crops, followed immediately afterwards by another one around Swinhope Brats. These were wet, very wet roads by now and, with three fords to cross in quick succession it was difficult to see at times what was road and what was river. There seemed to be a water splash round every corner but this was the home run now and the Forest Pines night halt was within sight.
The sweeps have had a busy day today with some minor electrical issues which they were still sorting in the carpark, as the rest of us dried out and took on some food and drink. It was John Ruston and Michael Birch though who perhaps had the worst day and have now retired with a broken transmission.
After a tough but enjoyable day on the road, the leaderboard has also changed. John Abel and Mark Appleton are leading from Gareth Burnett and Matthew Vokes whilst Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison are third. There’s still plenty of fight left in the rest of the crews though so it’s by no means settled just yet.
Day Three – Forest Pines to Gosforth Park – All points north
Warm, dry and well fed the rally hardly recognised itself this morning and it seemed that the weather Gods would be smiling upon us for most of today. Everyone was looking forwards to a bit of a dry patch.
From the hotel, a short section of motorway gave us a few easy miles to get some heat into the old blocks, some fluid through the pipes and it steadied the nerves of the anxious crews. Today was the longest day of the Rally and we were set up to cross some impressive landscapes to boot.
The Humber Bridge came and went in a flash but, magnificent as it was, all eyes were on the route book and specifically, the Yorkshire Wolds Regularity which was short and simple. More importantly, the gate at the end of it was locked in the open position and we can report that no sheep escaped during our tenure.
Next on the agenda there was some fun on the track at the Driffield Training area followed by tea and scones at the legendary Eden Camp wartime museum.
The Hambleton Hills Regularity proved to be a slightly sterner test, albeit one set in some stunning countryside. The hilly, gravel based run through dense and mature woodland took some of us straight back to the jungle Tests of the recent Road to Saigon.
Osmotherley Moor then led us to the Silton Regularity and another outing for the stopwatches, by this time the navigators were getting into the swing of things though and with the extra impetus of the impending lunch break there was something of a determined march towards Solberge Hall where another fine meal was served and allowed the crews to kick back and enjoy a little bit of weekend downtime. Obviously this didn’t last for long though, this is after all, a Press On style of rally.
The afternoon was action packed to say the least, and kicked off with a Special Test at Catterick. This was fast lap of a section of an MOD proving ground, the surface was loose, the trees were close and the corners were sharp. It was an ideal place for a bit of showboating and, rest assured there was plenty of this on display with levels of ambition often sharply juxtaposed with those of ability. But it was all good fun and most crews left with a big smile on their face.
Dirk van Praag however was a little less pleased with himself, he misjudged a turn in the middle of the section and ended up collecting an old fence post (along with some time penalties) and thereby bending his steering assembly. He should be OK to start again tomorrow though.
The following Time Control section, some five miles of it was held on a tank training ground and was sensational. The mud of yesterday was replaced today with clouds of choking white dust kicked up from the loose surface. Yellow gorse bushes dotted the landscape and there seemed to be orange jacketed marshals everywhere. No infraction went unpunished as the crews hurtled from Passage Control, to Time Control and back again and just as they’d got their breath back there was another, tarmac based regularity over Downholme Moor.
It was at the end of this section though that the overnight leaders, John Abel and Mark Appleton suffered a catastrophe when they lost most of their gears. Andy Inskip and Russ Smith were attending and doing all that they could but the fate of the Lagonda was sealed and the crew were forced to retire there and then.
Soon after, on the way to Greta Bridge, we saw Andrew Bailey and Philippa Spiller hunched in the cab of their Stutz, listening out for signs of life from the fuel pump. For the rest of us though the romp over the moors was spectacular even if there were spots of rain falling and the sky was darkening as we hit the Eastgate Test and then set a course for the last Regularity of the day over Muggleswick Common.
This was no simple home run though, the broken topography of the area meant that there was not one inch of level ground along the route and the myriad of nameless roads and tight junctions meant that good trip meter discipline was essential. Added to this mix was a sudden change in the weather, with the temperature falling to 3°c and a heavy sleety rain shower making its presence felt. By the time they’d made it out of this section, the arrival at the Gosforth night halt could not have been sweeter for some of the crews.
With John Abel and Mark Appleton now out of the Rally, the leaderboard has changed and, it is the highly fancied Alta of Gareth Burnett and Matthew Vokes which is now in top spot. William Medcalf and Andy Pullan are in second whilst Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison are third.
It’s not over though, there’s still a whole day to go before we pull into Edinburgh and it’ll be interesting to see how the final plays out.
Day Four – Gosforth Park to Edinburgh – The home run
‘Welcome to Scotland’ said the sign, and there can’t have been many crews who won’t have been pleased to see it. After three long days on the road, today was a slightly shorter one and one which would also deliver them to the finish line. The day may have been short but Anthony Preston kept the pressure on right to the end and the action came thick and fast right until the chequered flag, or to be precise the Saltire on Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.
Whilst an ominously wet dawn broke over Gosforth Park, by the time the crews had breakfasted and had got themselves into their cars the rain had cleared and patches of blue sky were even beginning to make an appearance.
So, after a short block warming run up the A1, there was a Test, a quick blast through Causey Park which led into two remote Regularities, The Burns and Callaly. Both featured bleak, high moorland, deep ravines, fords and clutch busting climbs and an A- Z of timing points, in maze of seldom used farm tracks and byways had some crews, to put it mildly, scratching their heads.
By the time the Time Control in Wooler came, there were plenty who felt that they more than deserved a coffee and a biscuit but the rest was short lived and soon the push through the borders continued.
The Kelso Showground was up next and this proved the ideal stage for some showboating and some crews duly obliged. James Gately and Tony Brooks could barely get their galleon of a Cadillac through the cones whilst the nimble little Alta of Gareth Burnett and Matthew Vokes skipped through them with barely a beat missed.
The Tweed Valley Regularity followed next and took the hungry crews to lunch at Paxton House by which time an end of term feeling was beginning to develop.
A sun soaked Regularity over the stunning Lammermuir Hills followed and, with its signature views over the North Sea and the Firth of Forth the fact that we were really nearing the journey’s end became more clear. The final Test at Scoughall Farm was a great way to sign off.
All that was left then was a run into Auld Reekie, or if you prefer, the Athens of the North where a rather special reception had been planned.
After a run up and around Arthur’s Seat, the Rally headed for the busy centre of Edinburgh. Usually this sort of historic capital city is off limits to motor cars save for the odd Toyota Prius or perhaps a Tesla but today, thanks fo some Herculean organisational efforts, we arrived to find that regular traffic was diverted, roads were closed and barriers were erected. The Flying Scotsman Rally had the cobbled High Street to itself.
Ian, the ERA Piper led the Itala down the High Street in a slow procession, whereafter each car was greeted by Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Right Honourable Lord Lieutenant and Lord Provost, handed a finishers award by Fred Gallagher and then passed under the finish arch to be photographed and cheered by the crowds of rally fans, old and new who pressed into the barriers keen to steal a quick selfie with them.
So it was then onto the night halt in the Balmoral Hotel and the Gala Prizegiving dinner in the Sir Walter Scott Room where the crews were duly honoured for their efforts and in heartfelt speeches, Fred Gallagher and the Clerk of the Course & Route Designer, Anthony Preston thanked those ERA pioneers such as Philip Young, Alan Smith, Kim Bannister and Bob Redhead who raised an early head of steam to get the Flying Scotsman running so well up the mainline and like a good whisky, the Flying Scotsman has matured very nicely and it’s good to see that in 2018, the blend is every bit as good as the original.
Salmon, duck and cranachan were on the menu this evening and as well as the class awards and the over-all awards, there were of course some discretionary awards handed out to those crews who had perhaps gone beyond and above the call of duty. The Spirit of the Rally to Jef and Anton van Hoylandt, the Concours d’Elegance to a delighted Rob and Hayley Stoneman and the two best dressed navigators were judged to be Marina Goodwin and Ann Boland.
Gareth Burnett, the first three times winner of the Flying Scotsman was clearly thrilled with his achievement and whilst being magnanimous in victory, he did admit that the win was even more sweet because no-one else reckoned that his little Alta would even get to the finish, never mind take the top spot. For Matthew Vokes as well, Gareth’s obviously capable navigator, this has been a steep learning curve as before Brooklands he’d never even been in a vintage car nor had he ever met Gareth! We think that after this though, we’ll be seeing a lot more of both of them.
With a wide choice of refreshment within walking distance of the hotel, there were some crews who, after dinner opted to patronise some of them. And, who can blame them, vintage rallying is quite clearly thirsty work.
Photos by Tony Large