The tenth Flying Scotsman saw William Medcalf and a whole fleet of vintage Bentleys line up at Brooklands in late April 2018. Just as they had done a decade earlier, they had come to contest perhaps the toughest UK rally for pre-war motor cars. All manner of different marques were down on the start list but it’s not too much of a stretch to say that as usual, anything from the Cricklewood stable acquitted itself very well over the typically tough course.
The late Philip Young and the Endurance Rally Association devised the Flying Scotsman as a reliability trial ‘for crews with a press on attitude’ and, in every edition since the first one in 2009, the crews and their cars have been tested by the roads, the weather, and the navigation. This year the route was designed by Anthony Preston, renowned for throwing in the odd curveball and finding what could best be described as the roads less traveled.
William Medcalf himself has taken part in eight Flying Scotsmen including the original one in 2009, and has won this prestigious event twice in 2014 and 2015 and, eventually came a close second this year.
This year, the tenth-anniversary edition was always going to be hotly contested and William, always keen to be competitive arrived at the start in a rather special 1925 Super Sports which was fresh off the boat and still sticky with champagne after winning the month-long Road to Saigon Rally in February.
Even with 5400 rally miles on the clock, and bearing the marks of a tough jungle journey this remarkable car owned by Graham and Marina Goodwin only needed a quick wash up brush up and an oil change to get it ready for the cold and wet hills and dales of Northern Britain.
Day one of the rally saw William and his navigator, Andy Pullan, take an early lead as the rally hit the Hill at Brooklands before striking out towards Luton Hoo through the Surrey Hills and the Chilterns. The sun shone and surely the wind was in their sails. Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison, so often seen harassing William on the results sheets, was in second place in his own Medcalf prepared machine, a 1925 Bentley 3-4½.
Day two began under heavy drizzle which soon turned into incessant rain and, whilst steaming through the very wet Lincolnshire Wolds William and Andy were caught up behind a tractor on a narrow regularity section and subsequently lost a lot of time ending up in fourth place at the night halt with Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison holding fast in third.
Day three, therefore, was one for a fightback and through Yorkshire, Durham and into Northumberland their measured approach and reliability got them back into contention and by the time that Gosforth arrived they’d clawed themselves back to second place overall. The Cleyndert / Harrison combo was right behind them.
Day four turned out to be explosive, with William and Andy taking chunks out of Gareth Burnett and Matthew Vokes’ lead, and sensing the Alta’s fragile state, even more pressure was applied through the Scottish borders and into Edinburgh. The Bentley then encountered yet another farm vehicle which cost them dearly, and they just kept a grip on their second place. Third place, as expected went to the other Medcalf Bentley, that of the irrepressible Bill Cleyndert and Dan Harrison.
After a sun-soaked Regularity over the Lammermuir Hills, the final Test at Scoughall Farm on the Firth of Forth, was a great way to sign off before a lap of Arthurs Seat whereafter a kilt-clad piper led the cars into the heart of the Scottish capital where over a thousand fans and well-wishers applauded as Frank Ross, Edinburgh’s Right Honourable Lord Lieutenant and Lord Provost flagged them under the finish arch.
Speaking as the rally finished on the magnificent Royal Mile, William reflected on a hard-fought campaign and once again covered the Bentley in bubbly.
One of the most important things in rallying is to be lucky. We definitely didn’t have a run of luck this year, getting snookered by two farm vehicles, but that’s rallying. Well done to Gareth for getting the Alta across the line and becoming the first and only man in history to have won the event three times.
Note: Press release courtesy of William Medcalf Vintage Bentley.