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Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 1 | Turnberry to Slaley

Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 1 | Turnberry to Slaley

Summer in Scotland is a beautiful thing, in fact, it is the best day of the year, but this morning as the competitors of this year’s Flying Scotsman rally lined up to begin their adventure, they were treated to a dawn as stunning as any summer’s morning, the question was, how long would it last?

The pioneer car of Mitch Gross (US) + Wendy Gross (US) led the field away, the 1914 Cadillac 30 heading off a little earlier than planned, which I think is fair enough when you are 109 years old, and they took the short run to the abandoned airfield at RAF Turnberry for some test action to blow away any winter cobwebs. ‘Haste ye Back’ read the sign at the edge of Turnberry, an invitation that nobody involved in the rally would be wanting to accept any time soon, but the morning would not be without its mechanical casualties. The first machine to succumb to mechanistic misery would be Richard Nicholl (GB) + Victoria Nicholl (GB), in their 1931 Alvis whose clutch had decided it didn’t want to play, a real shame for them so early on.

For those that were still trucking though the weather was holding, with big skies matching big landscapes, particularly on the transit section through Carrick Forest and Galloway Forest Park, the topography providing ample challenge to the veteran power plants. There’s nothing quite like the sound of these old motors under load, reverberating off of the surrounding hills but car 53, the 1936 Jawa Aero Jamie Turner (GB) + Dana Hradecka (CZ) provided an extra special audio treat for those watching from the side of the road, unless, of course, you aren’t a fan of an unsilenced two-stroke that is. The car is deafening and could easily be mistaken for a Grand Prix motorcycle until the gorgeous silver machine comes into view that is. Dana and Jamie will happily answer any questions about the car, but you’ll have to write them down as their hearing has been shattered.

A dry morning had left all those that had made it to the halfway point of the day with big smiles, but cometh the afternoon and cometh the rain, lots of rain. In fact not just rain, but hail too, which is the most malicious of all forms of precipitation, and those in exposed cars scrambled to get waterproofs on and tonneau’s raised, whilst some toughed it out hoping for the inclement weather to pass. It seemed though that it was here to stay, and for the rest of the afternoon volleys of rain and hail flashed over the route, as the sunshine teased cruelly between the showers.

This sort of thing is expected though, and the slick surface only added to most peoples entertainment, particularly on the fourth regularity of the day that took us off of the main road and onto the tracks of Kershope Forest, the surface of which is more used to being cut apart by the wheels of stage rally cars, although nobody could argue with the commitment of those in the vintage machinery, kicking up spray and muck as they pursued a perfect time in difficult conditions.

The stopwatch would have the last laugh in Kershope for car no 50, Australian pair Steve Lambert + Ruth Lambert, who’s 1935 Ford Fordor would suffer an attack of understeer and ended up sliding into the soft mud of the forests drainage ditches and stuck fast. They were typically nonchalant about the incident, “We’re fine” said Ruth, “It was only slow speed”. Eventually they would get back on the road but would be out of action for the rest of the day.

It’s been a topsy turvy day in many respects, what with the weather, but then any day where you drive south all day long and end up in the north is bound to be a bit tail about face. What has been under no question from the start though is the level of competition, with just two seconds separating the top two of number 78. Paul Dyas (GB) + Martyn Taylor (GB) in the Bentley Derby Special and car 90, Paul Crosby (GB) + Ali Procter (GB) in Pauls familiar 1939 MG TB, David vs Goliath if ever it was and a fair indication that size isn’t everything on this event. Shane Houlihan (IE) + Richard Pain (IE) are just a few seconds further back in third, in the BMW Fraser Nash 328 and indeed everyone in the top ten is well within reach of Dyas and Taylor in top spot. Tomorrow will see the recommencement of the competition, as the compass largely points north and we head back into Scotland for more fun and games.

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