After a 3-year enforced absence, the 12th Flying Scotsman rally organised by HERO-ERA lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s most challenging rallies for vintage cars. True to form, the weather in the region at springtime delivered everything from snow, hail, rain, sub-zero temperatures and brilliant sunshine over the 600-mile route, which started in Northumberland, crossed the border into Scotland via the Kielder Forest and continued via St Andrews, the Cairngorms, Aviemore, concluding at the end of day 3 at the world-famous Gleneagles Hotel.
Although the event attracts some of the finest vintage cars, driven by nearly 100 competitors from all over the world, this is no gentle run along country roads. The rally is not for the faint hearted, a typical day often starting with competitors jumping into snow covered cars, many of which have no hoods or heaters and undertaking a range of competitive driving tests and regularity stages across some of the finest mountainous roads that the region has to offer.
The event is fiercely competitive and a core of regular participants thoroughly prepare their cars to the highest level to be in with a chance of winning, whilst for many simply reaching the finish is testament to a crews endurance and evidence of a well prepared car.
William Medcalf of specialists “Vintage Bentley” has competed on the event many times and was looking to add to his tally of two victories, particularly after his last participation resulted in a close 2nd place after being baulked by a non-competing vehicle on the last event. This year William teamed up with Andy Pullan, again to right that wrong, a navigator with superb credentials. Andy has been reading the maps competitively since the age of 14 and now at the grand old age of 26 was on the cusp of giving up his career in Civil Engineering and following his true passion, to work full time for the Flying Scotsman event organizers – HERO-ERA. In fact, he deferred the start of his new career with HERO-ERA so he could compete in the event. In practical terms this competitive participation in the Flying Scotsman was to be his last for some time as you can’t work for the organizers and compete on their events simultaneously, so with the clear objective of improving on his own 2nd place best finish from six previous participations, he was keen to leave this phase of his competitive career with a win.
For the world’s leading Vintage Bentley specialist, a Bentley SuperSports was the ideal car to compete with and with the consent of an enthusiastic new owner, a freshly rebuilt example was entered with a view to using the event as a road test before final handover to the client! There are not many freshly restored cars that would use an event this arduous as a final road-test, certainly not those whose origins are almost a century old, but a Vintage Bentley SuperSports is made with competitive use in mind and benefits from Vintage Bentley’s vast experience in preparing successful cars for these types of events.
In isolation, the fact Vintage Bentley prepared the 1923 Bentley SuperSports which stormed into the lead from the start and led throughout the three-day event, appears to present a commanding performance for the Medcalf/Pullan duo, but that would simply not accurately reflect the true intensity of the competition.
At lunch time on day one, a mere 20 seconds covered the top 10 cars and literally the smallest mistakes would result in a crew dropping out of contention. The Bentley had the advantage of really good power and torque synonymous with the marque and on some of the more open tests such as the Crail airfield on day two, the SuperSports was in its element. That said, some of the smaller, younger vintage cars with equally high levels of preparation and the added benefit of new-fangled radial tires(!) presented very stiff competition on the twisty stuff. The Vintage Bentley crew left nothing on the table in their efforts to preserve their lead, which led to a few anxious moments when the outer limits of the car were explored especially with the knowledge the car had been sold and needed to be presented to its new owner on Wednesday morning after the rally, in the same fundamental condition it had left the works!