The first week mainly involved fabrication and machining of upgraded parts for the car, such as suspension components - including fitting the beautiful bespoke Bilstein dampers - and a completely revamped Woodward steering system, extensively machined by me and James Martin. Ben Scothern led the redesign and build of the new folding dashboard, while the extensive chassis and bodywork repairs were completed. At the same time Niall Geoghegan, Nikita Volkov and Samarth Shah prepared the entire car for the paint shop - among many other vital tasks. Also, part of the long ‘to do list’ was specifying the new and upgraded parts for the fuel, clutch and brake lines and mocking up how they would run through the car. This effort was led by Bobby Bragg and Vlad Ardeleanu – who also rewired the car - and we owe a big thanks to Matt Potter at Think Automotive for supplying all of the plumbing items needed in such short time, which played a key part in completing the car on time.
While the team was at HRDC Brands Hatch with the race Riley on Sunday June 3rd, achieving its second best-ever result of 2nd Overall in the Touring Greats and its 4th and 5th successive Class wins of the season, the Riley rally car was being given its top coat of Lesonal in the Oxford Crash Repairs spray booth. It was collected on Monday afternoon, and immediately the gargantuan task of getting the car from a bare shell to rally ready, in 4.5 days, began! During the week a worrying gearbox problem was found and eventually identified and cured following the expert advice from Bill McDonagh at Hardy Engineering. Subsequent in-house machining of first gear was the only short term solution available, and this left the gearbox ready to be fully rebuilt through Thursday night. By 6am on Friday morning, the rebuild of the gearbox had been completed by me and Dom Norman - mercifully with no further problems found!
Friday 8th June was easily the most hectic day at the OUMF HQ for some time (ie a couple of days!) as every member of the team worked feverishly to finish building the car, including fitting the engine and the complete drive train in the dying hours of Friday evening. Eventually, when the car had almost completely come together - with the suspension left to be reinstalled after setting the ride height, and the installation of the engine to be completed - it was decided that half of the team should get some rest for the all-important Saturday, while the ‘late shift’ cracked on with prep.
They did, and at 3am Saturday, the Riley roared in to life at the first time of asking – having been rebuilt and not started since the Ypres Rally almost a full year ago! This put a smile on all of our faces, especially engine meister Dom Norman.
As daylight broke at the OUMF HQ, the ‘early shift’ team continued to put the finishing touches on the Riley, including setting up the suspension and steering ready for its drive down to our great sponsors at Phillips Tyres to have the steering aligned. The car finally rolled out of the OUMF HQ under its own steam at 9:30 am on Saturday morning, and was declared road test ready an hour later after a couple of test drives up and down the farm drive to test the mechanicals, including the new Helix Autosport clutch and the modified alloy GDM radiator. After its tracking at Phillips, it really drove well on its new TOYO R888R tyres, and so it was loaded and we set off to Abingdon at 5.30pm. While the team set up OUMF base in the service park, the Riley was scrutineered – and to everyone’s amazement it passed with flying colours! Food at the celebratory barbeque afterwards never tasted so good!
The Abingdon CAR-nival Stage Rally
Warm dry weather greeted us on Sunday morning, to the relief of team OUMF and no doubt to all the 100 teams from all over the UK gathered at Abingdon for this major event – which was a round of no less than 5 different UK rally championships! We knew we were up against the top British drivers, in some of the fastest current rally cars – in a Riley designed in the mid-1950’s!!
The first stage was an exciting but nail-biting moment for the team. All of the hours put in at the HQ had come to fruition, but would the car be fast and reliable? After sending the Riley out, the team ran to the fence to watch Ding Boston (Driver) and Ahron Becquart (Co-driver) come past during its first run in competition. The Riley returned from the first stage in one piece, with no major problems, mechanical electrical or otherwise – encouraging signs to soothe the team’s nerves. The only problem seemed to be the rather worrying lack of braking, especially entering concrete chicanes!
After a thorough check over and some suspension set-up changes the Riley left the service park for the second stage. The reliability of the Riley continued for the subsequent couple of stages, with the tyres, braking and suspension set-ups continuing to be fine tuned during every service. By the 4th stage the suspension settings had been greatly improved, and the braking issue had also been improved but not yet eliminated.
The next few stages ran smoothly, with small improvements being made to aid the braking issue, which remained our only problem throughout the rally. Further adjustment to the Performance Braking master cylinder and a harder compound of Mintex brake pads made a slight improvement to the brake pedal and its performance.
Eventually the final stage had rolled round, and the car had left the service park for the final time. Would OUMF’s 100% retirement rate at all previous Abingdon CAR-nival Rally’s finally be broken?
Fortunately Ding, Ahron and the Riley safely returned to the service park, welcomed by a round of applause from the rest of the team. We had done it! Our first ever finish. Not only this, but we achieved a fantastic result of 58th out of 100 entries and 76 finishers. An incredible feat given that the Riley had only been completed shortly before scrutineering, and was the oldest car there by some distance, finishing ahead of far more modern cars such as Subaru Imprezas, Peugeot 205, and BMWs, plus Escorts, and Mini Coopers too – all cars with real rally pedigree.
This season has seen an unprecedented run of great success for the team, but it is all built on hard work and excellent engineering. That hard work is continuing throughout this week as we prepare to leave this weekend for the teams - and the Riley’s - main event, the Ypres Historic Rally on the 21st-23rd of June in Belgium…
We give massive and unqualified thanks to all of our sponsors, without whose support we could not have rebuilt the Riley at all, let alone to such a high standard in such a short time.
We hope its amazing performance at Abingdon is a portent of great things to come in Ypres!