His two sons have been very successful racing VW Golfs over the past few years – all prepared by their father – and as a result he has both a huge amount of knowledge and many standard parts from cars they have broken to sustain the Golf racers. With the mechanicals of our TOYO Golf getting very long in the tooth, he kindly offered us a Mk2 GTi engine, two gearboxes and a full Scorpion stainless steel exhaust system for it, and gave a tour of his creations and projects. Among the Golfs were his Mk5 Golf endurance racer, a historic Mk2 race car, a Mk2 street car with a modern 20 Valve turbo engine ready to be installed, plus a genuine Astra BTCC race car and his own red Ferrari 308 GTB in beautiful condition. When we’d finished drooling over these, we gratefully loaded the donated spares and, with Ben Scothern leading the way, we set off to his home near Mansfield.
His parents, Alan and Claire, had a sumptuous dinner ready for us on arrival, and the hungry team sat down to a very enjoyable meal which doubled as a celebration of Alan starting an exciting new job this year. The festivities could have gone on well into the night, but the planned early start in the morning saw everyone bedded down and asleep soon after midnight after a great evening.
We thanked our kind hosts at sunrise on Monday, and drove north to Wizbang Fabrications to pick up the long term Mercedes 380SL project on which Ryan Lebeter and his father Mick have generously deployed their well-known skills to fit a custom roll cage and sump guard – the stock in trade of their rally preparation business. Due to a recent and ongoing back injury Ryan is downsizing the business, so their generous help in completing this element of the project, in spite of his painful condition, was extremely kind. Sadly a sudden change of plans meant that neither Ryan or Mick were able to be there to meet the team and accept our thanks – or show us their works in progress – which was a great shame, but they had placed the black, V8 powered Merc outside their workshop ready to load on the venerable OUMF trailer. This was swiftly done, thank you presents were left, and the neighbouring workshop kindly lent us their power washer to make the leaf strewn car more presentable for our next visit. The idea is that the SL will become a new OUMF rally car when completed, possibly destined for tarmac stages across the UK and Europe?!!
Of course it wouldn't be an OUMF trip if something didn't go quite according to plan! This time, a brake actuating rod on the trailer came adrift whilst laden with the 380SL, and those following were treated to a shower of sparks as it dragged along the motorway. Once pulled over, Oli Grantham dived underneath and it was quickly tied up again so we could continue on our way to Klarius Exhausts, where we arrived without further incident!
Klarius are the largest manufacturer of aftermarket emissions equipment in the UK, and their director of development Doug Bentley has very kindly offered to make up a suitable competition manifold and system for the SL, to replace the very restrictive original cast iron manifold and standard system. Upgraded tubular manifolds on these cars are able to release many bhp and the additional removal of two boxes is likely to give the car the performance gain and ‘aural gravitas’ worthy of a V8 rally car! We were pleased to find that Richie and Dan in the development dept there are Mercedes enthusiasts too, so we all felt we had left the car in very capable hands. Doug was unable to join us for a proposed tour of the large Klarius complex due to meetings called at short notice, but the prospect of seeing all they do when we return to collect the car is a real treat in store!
Our next stop was Millington Race Engines near Bridgnorth – further a field and more isolated than we had expected – but we arrived at the farm only quarter of an hour later than planned. We were greeted by Robin Maitland, Tom’s dad, who had kindly liaised with Roy and Julian Millington about our visit. Soon we were being shown through the extensive workshops exactly how their ultimate incarnations of the Ford Cosworth YB and Vauxhall C20XE ‘Red Top’ engines are cast, manufactured, constructed, and tested – all resulting in the most powerful and reliable development of these popular rally engines available. The Millington Diamond engine is now regarded in Ireland as really the only way to win in an Escort, and we understood why after watching them run in one of their customers engines on the dyno after a rebuild. The engine had been sent back from New Zealand for its first ‘refreshment’ in over 10 years of rallying. Once on their engine dyno, Julian ran it for 20 minutes to bed it in at operating temperature, before proceeding to run the Diamond engine under load and at various revs - all the way up to 8500rpm! As there was no round deadening in the dyno room the noise was incredible - and so was the sight of the whole exhaust manifold glowing cherry red!
Roy Millington was full of bubbling enthusiasm for all things mechanically powered, and after our engine shop tour, he led us on a tour of his network of barns and sheds - which house some incredible toys. The biggest surprise lay in the first shed…a Harrier Jump Jet!! With a refreshing lack of preciousness Roy invited us all to take turns in the cockpit – and we didn’t require a second invitation. Then to our further astonishment, he got in and proceeded to start the jet up. We were overcome by the noise generated in the enclosed shed – and after it was switched off, he explained that this was just the auxiliary starter engine, and that it apparently gets ten times louder when fully running. However, doing that would have torn up the floor and blown the shed away!
Time was against us, so we just had time to look in the next door shed which contained a huge collection of classic tractors and other oddities – including a selection of beautifully restored David Brown tractors, a few Caterpillar diesel monsters, a couple of jet engines, and a beautiful Rolls-Royce Griffon aero engine. What a visit…which was topped off by an excellent carvery dinner in the nearby Down Inn with the Millingtons, again organized by Robin. This very enjoyable – and very filling – meal was spiced by an endless stream of amusing stories about the farm from Roy and Julian, and followed by the unexpected delight of discovering that it was all the kind treat of the ever-generous Robin Maitland!
After the meal, Robin led our convoy back to the Maitland Mansion near Ludlow, where he, his wife Debbie, and Tom made us all very welcome before we retired to bed – before a full English breakfast and another early start on Tuesday morning. Before the very grateful OUMF team left, there was just time for a quick tour of the Maitland toy sheds, with their esoteric projects ranging from a flip front Morris Mini, to a vintage Alvis!
An hour later we arrived at Grainger and Worrall, based at the old Stanford RAF base, which is one of the leading automotive sand casting companies in the world, with over 700 employees, and growing fast. The technology involved is fascinating, and ranges far beyond what any of us expected. Paul Roberts, the enthusiastic Learning and Development manager, showed us Bugatti, Porsche, and F1 engines and castings in the foyer before he gave us a comprehensive tour of some of their 18 converted hangers. Here they form some of the most complex castings imaginable. We were surprised to learn that, increasingly, some internal structures and voids - such as water jackets, intake tracts and exhaust ports - are 3D printed in sand to form the complex internal shapes of cylinder blocks, heads and a host of other components. At the end of our tour, we met Alex Grainger in the highly secure area where much of the confidential Formula 1
Development work is done. He concluded our visit with a video featuring supercars builds they are involved with, and giving his inspiring and very well-informed views on the future of powered transport and what it might mean for this company cutting edge company. Fascinating stuff.
All too soon it was time for us to head to Hinckley for our visit to Arrow Precision who are one of the suppliers of the finest cranks and connecting rods to motorsport in this country, and round the world. James Williamson kindly took us round the whole facility, and in spite of losing his voice he explained and showed us every part of the process, from the metal billet or forging, machining, heat treating, traceability, inspection - right through to the finished component. We were all very impressed with their state-of-the-art facility and the extraordinary attention to detail at every stage on which their reputation is built. At the end, while thanking James on leaving, we were delighted to find picture of the OUMF race team on the wall in the entrance foyer!
We returned to Oxford on Tuesday evening, buzzing with all we had seen and learned, and reconvened at the HQ on Wednesday for the final prep and loading of the Riley, and the fixing of the trailer. While worked continued on the Sebring, Niall Geoghegan and Ding set off at 3pm for Birmingham’s NEC to deliver the Riley to Steve and Monique Bradshaw on the SuperB stand at the Autosport International Show – the first time an OUMF project car has been exhibited there.
Armed with tickets from SuperB, and with the team swelled by Vlad, Andy Doyle and Andy Parsons it was up to the Autosport Show on Thursday and Friday for OUMF’s annual 2 days of meeting all our supporters, and recruiting more sponsors. The Riley proved to be a great attraction and SuperB were so delighted at the much increased flow of visitors the Riley brought to their stand that they have already invited us again next year! I think all of us were surprised and delighted by the reception we received from stand after stand that we visited, and very grateful for the offers of support received. This included NGK, Bilstein, OMP, Westwood, Intercomp, ARP, Mintex, Zircotec, Ashley, Draper, THINK Automotive, Raceparts UK, Eibach, ITG, Lista, Gala Performance, ATL, Lifeline, Engine Parts UK, ACL Bearings, Aurora, KA Sensors, CARTEK, OMEX, Schroth, and of course SuperB batteries! – among so many others.
Now a super-successful OUMF Action Week 2019 is ended. All who enjoyed it and learned so much give their sincere thanks to all those whose generosity made our motorsport engineering visits so comfortable and enjoyable, and everyone at Autosport International who pledged the team their support in the coming season.
So we must not disappoint them. Let’s get the Sebring finished and go racing!
1st Year Engineer, Oxford Brookes