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Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Preview | Turnberry, Scotland

Flying Scotsman 2023, Syd Stelvio Preview | Turnberry, Scotland

Outwith under the sunlit sky they gathered, cars of a great age all spick and span, ready for a journey. Ready, for an adventure. Great hood ornaments and badges adorned the strange looking beasts, indicators to the non-connoisseurs of which marques had produced these icons of yesteryear. These cars, these incredible cars, are about to take part in this year’s Flying Scotsman Rally, an event that borrows its name from another icon of piston and wheel that is also of vintage age. Tomorrow the rally will begin and the quest for glory will start.

Today the drivers and navigators went about their pre-rally business. Route books, check, rally plates, check and of course vehicle checks. As the entrants waited to be scrutineered under blue skies, there was no doubt much blether about the weather, as many of these vehicles offer little to no protection for those in the cockpit and when, not if, the weather hits, the experience will be an uncomfortable one, but these enthusiasts are a special breed. Today at least the Heilan Coo’s were standing, and indeed paying little attention to the goings on next to their field, as old friends greeted one another and their cars with smiles and laughter, ‘Slàinte Mhath’ as they say in these parts; comrades today, competitors tomorrow.

Tomorrow the flag will wave off the 90 pre-war cars that have entered the Scotsman, the premier event of its kind in the UK. An event that draws people from all over Europe to take part, and even as far away as America, many of whom have the endurance rallying bug. However, with this rally only being open to pre-war machines it will offer a different sort of test over its three days and 700 or so miles, no mean feat in machines that look like they would be better suited to a museum.

The sights, sounds and smells are unique and as the event makes its way across Southern Scotland and Northern England anyone who catches a glimpse of these beasts between the hedges will no doubt wear a smile on their face. Tomorrow, we begin on the Scottish Coast in Ayrshire, and finish on the other side of border and the other side of the UK in Hexham, Northumberland. Day two will see a return to Scotland, with fun in the hills and forests of the borderlands, although any would be reavers beware, these are formidable opposition. Those who are still in fine fettle on Sunday, and there is no guarantee of that, will have the run into the finish at Gleneagles to look forward to and a celebration of their achievement.

An achievement it is too, with navigational regularities and speed tests to conquer, as well as the general toil of managing these great cars on a tricky route. Whether in Talbot, Aston Martin or Bentley, each of these old warriors has their own idiosyncrasies and complexities, these are eccentric machines, and this is an eccentric event.

Thoughts then turn to the off, to the unknown of the journey, to the excitement of the competition. These are cars of great splendour, and The Flying Scotsman is a rally of magnificent prestige. To take part is one thing, to win quite another, but to just be in amongst the clamour and the commotion of these automobiles in locomotion, is something very special indeed.

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