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Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 3 | Edinburgh to Gleneagles

Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Day 3 | Edinburgh to Gleneagles

‘Where’s Cros?’ was the question posed as the front runners arrived at the coffee break on the final morning of competition on this year’s Flying Scotsman. Where was Paul Crosby indeed, the overnight leader who should have arrived at the time control first was MIA, last seen on the side of the road with ignition issues. Not the start to the final day’s competition that he or navigator Ali Proctor wanted or needed, but one that had left his nearest rivals licking their lips. Where was Cros?

With seconds to spare before they would begin to pick up time penalties the familiar red and black MG appeared, racing around the line of other cars that were calmly filing into the time control, but there was nothing calm about the occupants of car no 90, they were like coiled springs and Ali was up and out of the seat before the car had even reached a stop, time card in hand and sprinting for the control.

By lunch, they had managed to keep their rivals behind them, and indeed had only picked up one second more of penalty time than the newly second-placed crew of Theo Hunt and James Galliver who had snuck ahead of number 69, Shane Houlihan + Richard Pain, albeit only a second to the good over the BMW Fraser Nash 328.

The morning had been ace, the route tremendous as it twisted and turned over familiar lanes that picked a route through the hills south of the Cairngorms, not that the crews at the sharp end would have noticed, there’s too much at stake at this stage to be enjoying the ride. Those further down, remember this is a large field, may have enjoyed the roads more though, even if the bright sunshine of yesterday had been replaced by a cumulous blanket, that clung to the higher peaks, peaks that are still snow-capped, yet to give in to the rising temperatures of spring.

The second regularity of the day was especially good fun, winding up and down through the trees above Loch Tummel, the red pines and purple birch trees giving the place an ethereal feeling. The roads here were great fun, and it would take a disciplined right foot to stick to regularity speed. Evidently, Sean Bramhall (GB) + Rob Atkinson (GB) in the 1938 Chevrolet Coupe decided that fun was more important than restraint at this stage of the game and opted for pleasure over measure, although after their heroics pulling Bill Cleyndert out of a ditch mid-regularity on day one, and so sacrificing their own time, nobody could argue that they didn’t deserve it.

That hasn’t been the only act of chivalry during this event, even this morning when the competition was getting serious Paul Dyas gave Paul Crosby an ignition coil to get him moving again. Nobody wants to win by default, and everybody will help a fellow competitor given the chance and this act of charity kept the leader in it.

Not long to go now, just a few competition sections left to win or lose it. Just a few miles to go to keep any mechanical gremlins at bay, just got to hold it together for a couple of hours more. There were now two fights happening at the head of things, Crosby and Proctor fighting against the invisible spectre of mechanical doom and the pairs of Hunt + Galliver and Houlihan + Pain fighting over second place, with those just behind ready to take advantage of any big mistakes.

Pressure does funny things to people, and the pressure was starting to cause mistakes. Into the last regularity of the day and the first lapse in concentration happened, Shane Houlihan + Richard Pain missed a control, completely, and barring several sequential miracles they were out of the fight and now the tussle for second was between Paul Dyas and Martin Taylor and Hunt and Galliver.

At the finish the cars began to arrive, Dyas and Taylor first, followed by car no 12 and a familiar question was on the lips of the assembled crowd, ‘where was Cros?’ The word came through that he was on the side of the road before the last test, suffering from a misfire again, and the finishing order of the rally was now in the balance. More cars arrived, still no Cros, more cars and still, no Cros. Eventually though the little MG appeared on the Gleneagles’ drive, coughing, and spluttering its way to the arch and to victory. Despite all the mechanicals, despite all of the stress Paul and Andy had done it, victory was theirs.

In the end, the tight fight for second had gone the way of experience, with Dyas and Tayor doing just enough to hold off Hunt and Galliver who had finished in third, for the third event in a row. I’m sure there will be a touch of disappointment that the young pairing couldn’t go better than their previous finishes, but to be on the podium and in the fight at the head of this field is an incredible achievement ad everyone on the podium should be proud of their accomplishments.

There ends the 2023 Flying Scotsman, congratulations to the winner’s Paul Crosby and Ali Proctor, a hard-earned victory by two deserving and formidable competitors. The Scotsman has celebrated its 18th event in style with a fabulous rally and a podium that is as diverse as the entry this tremendous competition attracts. From all over the world they have come, from Australia, from America and from the UK, all united under the banner of vintage motorsport, all united under the banner of The Flying Scotsman.

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