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The Flying Scotsman Preview | 14th – 16th April 2023

Stellar entry of Vintage Motor Cars to contest Britain’s Premier Vintage Rally

Poacher Turns Game Keeper as ’22 Champion Navigator part of Route Planning Team

HERO-ERA celebrate 100 years of the Flying Scotsman locomotive

The Flying Scotsman Preview | 14th – 16th April 2023

Spring is a special time of year, the earth begins to move as the new season’s growth pushes its way clear of the warming soil, the hedgerows and treetops reverberate to the sound of birdsong and out in the countryside people begin to return to enjoying outdoor pursuits. But, for a few days in April, it isn’t just the burgeoning flora and fauna that will cause a stir between the hedges, as one of Spring Time’s truly spectacular events occurs as 90 pre-war motor cars take to the roads in a display as enchanting as any provided by nature. Walkers and cyclists take note, there is no need to adjust your eyes, what you are witnessing is the magic of the Flying Scotsman Rally, Britain’s Premier Vintage Rally.

These words are by no means an exaggeration either; the sight, sound, and smell of these incredible vehicles travelling down the road, as they navigate a route that will take them in and out of Scotland with a ceremonial finish at Gleneagles, is breath taking. You’ve no need to be a petrol head to be imbibed by the emotion of the Scotsman, much in the same way that Locomotive LNER 4472 Flying Scotsman can bring hard-faced men to their knees, the curious and extraordinary spectre of this many vintage cars out on the road, come what may, is a spell that few are immune to.

The famous Flying Scotsman locomotive is 100 years old, (1923 to 2023) and celebratory events will be taking place in many parts of the UK from April into the summer. Flying Scotsman commemorative stamps with the Queen’s head on for the last time, and coins from the Royal Mint will highlight the historic role of the steam engine that was symbolic of a bygone era. The role of linking London to Edinburgh by rail was a task the grand locomotive took in its iconic stride, setting records, and acquiring a reputation for speed as it disappeared down the tracks in a cloud of steam. The HERO-ERA Flying Scotsman Rally will celebrate the era with a full field of vintage cars, many from the period, as they provide their own internal combustion-engined spectacle.

Purchase your Mint Coins ‘here’

Purchase your Flying Scotsman Stamps ‘here’

The London to Edinburgh service was started in 1862 and became known as the Flying Scotsman two years later. The current locomotive 4472 ran from 1923 to 1963 when it was retired, but its popularity has endured. The world’s most famous steam engine will make celebratory journeys this year on various routes from its historic base at the National Railway Museum in York.

Certainly, this is part of the draw for route planner Andy Pullan, where else can you see this sort of spectacle, he tells me when we caught up recently about all things Flying Scotsman, including the celebrated locomotive. Andy has been part of the team that has put this year’s event together, a team that includes Anthony Preston whom Andy is keen to impress, and is the main player in this year’s route planning. Andy has certainly played his part though and as the current champion navigator, winning last year’s Flying Scotsman alongside William Medcalf in a Bentley, he is well-placed to have unique insight into what makes a winning rally for the competitor.

There is a certain aspect of poacher turned gamekeeper, but do the contents of his trophy cabinet add any pressure? “I don’t think so” says Andy, “the Flying Scotsman’s rich history is far superior to any of my achievements, the only pressure is to continue to provide a quality rally that invokes the unique challenge of the Flying Scotsman.” A unique challenge it is too, 700 sympathetically tough miles, through the elevated countryside of northern England and Scotland, through national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty in machines that are in some cases over 100 years old. Often this is open-top motoring, and so the unpredictable spring weather can also play its part. Last year there was snow, as well as bright sunshine, followed by biting wind and all of this adds to the challenge to those in the hot, or perhaps that should be cold seats.

So, what can we expect from this year’s route, when the rally begins at the Trump Turnberry, overlooking the Firth of Forth in Ayrshire on the 14th of April? Well, like all dedicated to the route plotting craft, Andy is keeping his cards close to his chest, but he does reveal that the route heads in a direction that many may not expect. “There will be some familiar roads, but perhaps not in a direction those who have experienced the rally before will expect.” He also lets on that there are some new test venues along the way, an aspect that he has been an influence on. “You start with a bit of a wish list” he explains, “we’ve certainly not been able to achieve every venue we would have liked to, but there are some new places for us to visit and some which will provide either a unique challenge or a novel aspect that should leave the competitors with some memorable experiences.”

The mention of tests is a strong reminder to all of us that this is first and foremost a competition, not just a tour through some nice scenery, which makes it all the more remarkable in these venerable and senescent machines. But competition it is though, one that Anthony and Andy have been keen to make as fair as possible as well, with a challenge that at times will suit the more powerful cars and at other times suit those who value more nimble handling over a giant power plant.

But just who could triumph? Well, it would be unfair to question the route planners on this aspect, although they will certainly have their inside tips. The field is relatively wide open though and with no defending champion in the mix, there will be no consecutive winner. Hunt could well be a name at the top of the time sheets, with the exciting young pairing of Theo Hunt and James Galliver who are capable of doing remarkable things in their Frazer Nash TT replica, although to go better than their consecutive third-placed finishes, they will have to overcome a field that includes Theo’s Father Martin, who finished second last year, and 2019 champion Bill Cleyndert, whom this year has daughter Georgia sitting alongside him, a pairing that triumphed in the desert last September when they won the Sahara Challenge.

It is an entry that is packed with experience and potential though, with former winners from all spheres of rallying, HERO-ERA Cup and Golden Roamer champions, Peking to Paris veterans and names from famous vintage car clubs from far and wide. Entrants are coming from all over Europe, and as far away as the States and New Zealand, to take on the unique challenge of the Scotsman and be part of this incredible event. There will be crews from 16 different countries.

The only thing that stands out more than the names on the entry list are the cars themselves, with many a forgotten marque taking to the start line.

Andy sums up the special nature of this rally perfectly, when he tells me “Everyone involved is keen and passionate about using these cars on the road, everyone is in for it, and up for the challenge, and that’s what this event is all about.” To have vintage cars on a rally is always special, most people would, after all, keep these unique machines under lock and key, but to have a challenge of this level with such a gathering of these vintage motor cars is an incredibly exceptional occurrence, one that is a privilege to be a part of.

It is not long to go now until the departure of The Flying Scotsman 2023, your service will depart on the 14th of April and reach its terminus on the 16th, we look forward to welcoming you on board.

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