Ron Flockhart, The Flying Scotsman - Blackbourn 378

By: Rob Blackbourn

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ron flockhart ron flockhart

An impossibly larger than life character, Le Mans champ Ron Flockhart loved living close to the edge

From Unique Cars #378, July 2015

Reading a news item in a previous issue of Unique Cars about the 2015 Mille Miglia commemorative rally caught my eye. The event it honours, the original Mille Miglia (1000 miles) road race was hairy-chested motor racing at its hairiest, conducted on public roads in Italy until 1957.

If you’re unfamiliar with the original Mille Miglia here’s a taster: Picture Stirling Moss flat-knacker at the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports car in 1955, following instructions conveyed via hand signals in the noisy cockpit from his trusty navigator, motoring writer Denis Jenkinson. ‘Jenks’ was taking his cues from a six metre-long roll of pace notes he was progressively scrolling through. These pioneering pace-notes, written during pre-event recce trips, allowed Moss to pitch the car into blind bends and fling it over blind crests at lunatic speeds. One report had the car flying for 60 metres off a crest taken at around 280km/h. Not only did Moss and Jenkinson survive these spectacular antics, they went on to win the event, covering the 1597km-course on public roads in a stunning time of just over 10 hours.

Le -mans -winner

It was a bit special for me reading that some Ecurie Ecosse Jaguars were involved in this year’s event. Ecurie Ecosse, a small but successful Scottish race team, fielded drivers of the calibre of Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, Innes Ireland and Roy Salvadori back in the day. They gave a young Tom Walkinshaw a drive in 1971. My Ecurie Ecosse connection came from meeting its Le Mans star Ron Flockhart in Melbourne in April 1962. 

Flockhart won the 1956 Le Mans event driving an Ecurie Ecosse D-Type Jaguar  with Ninian Sanderson, beating Aston Martin DB3S-mounted duo, Stirling Moss and Peter Collins, to the flag. Flockhart went on to a repeat victory in ’57, with Ivor Bueb, again in a D-Type, ahead of Ninian Sanderson and John Lawrence, a one-two result for Ecurie Ecosse D-Types.

Flockhart’s racing wasn’t confined to sports-car endurance events; he competed successfully in open-wheeler events ranging from hillclimbs to Formula 1. He was actually a Mille Miglia competitor as well – the 1955 event saw him emerging ingloriously, but uninjured, from his Austin Healey that had landed upside-down in a river.

Flockhart -with -mustang

Ron Flockhart was also an aviator – flying a light aircraft was a convenient way to travel between circuits in Europe. Unsurprisingly his competitive spirit began to affect his flying. In 1961 he attempted to break an existing record for flying solo from Sydney to London. Sadly the engine of his restored Mustang P51 fighter expired in Athens. Close, but no cigar.

It was the following year when Flockhart, a graduate engineer, spent an evening talking to a bunch of us young engineering students about repeating the record attempt. The next day he would jump into another restored P51 Mustang and point it toward the UK.

He was charming and engaging, and his boyish enthusiasm for the coming flight was infectious. He gave us a few laughs with his insights into life as a professional race-driver, for example contrasting the attitudes of race officials across Europe – German scrutineers doing it by the book while Italians would just kick a tyre and sign off your car. As long as it was red.

I remember him being mightily impressed by the potential of BMC Minis in motorsport, urging any of us interested in taking up racing to go the Mini route. Overall he came across as a thinking-man’s enthusiast, one who indulged in his risk-taking in a calculated manner.

The next day he took off from Moorabbin Airport heading north. Minutes later, caught up in heavy cloud over the Dandenongs, he slammed into a hillside near Monbulk, with tanks full of Avgas…

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