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Flying Scotsman ’24, Syd Stelvio Leg One | Carden Park to Windermere – 181 Miles

Flying Scotsman ’24, Syd Stelvio Leg One | Carden Park to Windermere – 181 Miles

There aren’t many Rallies more special than The Flying Scotsman, the annual moving museum of pre-war cars thrills and delights everyone who witnesses it. Calling it a museum is a touch harsh, as whilst these venerable old machines have indeed reached an age where they could be exhibits, they, and their owners, are not about to commit to an easy life and for the next three days these extraordinary motor cars will be used with gusto.

This year the route began just south of Chester and will of course finish in Gleneagles, but today’s target was the shores of Lake Windermere and the picturesque Lake District. The morning began with a bang, with two brisk tests in the grounds of Bowlesworth House on a mixture of gravel and tarmac, offering up plenty of opportunities for the drivers to show off their drifting skills, quite the spectacle with many of these cars being on the larger side of heavyweight. Of course, there are more nimble machines, like the Frazer Nash of Theo Hunt and Jimmy Galliver, that rarely seems to be pointing straight. Sadly, there was already one car that wouldn’t be getting the opportunity to strut its stuff, the Ford Type 35 of Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickins was stranded at the start with a blown head gasket, a problem that had terminated their rally before it had even begun.

For the rest of the cars who had made it to and through the first tests of the event a short regularity in the Cheshire lanes followed, punctuated by a warm welcome from the children of Calveley Primary School, who had flooded the playground to cheer the cars past, waving Union Jacks and making enough noise to drown out even the loudest Bentley. Post reg and another pair of tests beckoned, this time at Oulton Park, the famous old circuit hosting the cars on its purpose-built rally loop, featuring purposefully slippery tarmac to keep the drivers on their toes. It caught out many a pilot, with spins aplenty, including John Lomas and Pete Johnson in the Riley Sprite. JLo isn’t the person who springs to mind when you think of ballet dancers, but the pirouette was worthy of the Nutcracker, although it didn’t seem to affect his day too much, as he and Pete would finish the day in third position.

There were plenty of smiles after the Oulton tests, Ann Gillis was beaming although confessed that her pilot Filip Engelen had almost thrown her from the vehicle with his driving. Ann wouldn’t have been the only thing to drop from the vehicle, with the exhaust all but jettisoning early on and the engine dropping cylinders as well. Others were in trouble as well, car 42, the Riley Monza of Rob van der Leeuw and Martijn van der Leeuw had differential problems that would ultimately force their retirement. There’s wouldn’t be the only indifferent differential of the day, but more of that later.

Pushing north the route was shadowed by the history of this part of the world’s industrial past, with the canals and disused railway lines of yesteryear standing sentry to the medium of transport that would ultimately supersede them. Wigan, Preston and Blackburn all disappeared behind us as we punched a route north, as well as Liverpool and Manchester of course and as the day wore on the landscape became more remote and the altitude increased.

The transit sections were interspersed with regularities and more tests, with a tricky little uphill number on a current stage rally drivers personal test track. The dep gravel would have been eaten up by a modern rally car, but the challenge of guiding the pre-war behemoths up the soaking wet scree slopes was much more of an undertaking, providing a workout for the cars and the drivers. Particular style points must be awarded to Martin Hunt in his Frazer Nash BMW, who danced the car up the slippery switchbacks with ease, although it was only enough for the fourth best time on the test, with son Theo beating him by 7 seconds.

Second on that test was Paul Dyas, being ably navigated by Mark Appleton, powering the big Bentley Derby up the slopes. The pair had topped the time sheets at lunchtime, but a reported spin on the final test of the day didn’t help their overall performance and they would ultimately finish day one in second place overall, 8 seconds off the lead. A fine day at the office in any case, and certainly better than Paul Crosby and Ali Procter’s, last year’s champions falling foul to a broken differential sustained on test number five, their defence of their crown over before it had really begun.

It is always a shame to lose machines to mechanical failure, but it is an ever-present threat on cars as old as these. It does leave the door open for a different name on the trophy this year though, and perhaps even a brand-new name, as at the end of day one the young pair of Theo Hunt and Jimmy Galliver top the times, after a super performance. It is far too early to get excited though, and with an early start and late finish tomorrow, who knows what the order will look like by the time we reach Loch Lomond, as the Scotsman reaches Scotland on day number two.


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