It was a cold and windy night in Wendlebury, a village deep in the rural heart of Oxfordshire, when two OUMF rally crews splashed up the main street. The solid twelve hours of rain leading up to the event had left the ground undesirably wet and caused a number of large puddles to form on the road. Fortunately, the Sign-in and Drivers Briefing were held inside The Lion pub. Perfect for picking up a pre-race snack and drink; an extremely crucial step to success. As were the three whole packets of Jaffa Cakes that we picked up during a fuel stop while we headed to the rally. We arrived at the pub at around quarter to seven, as we had to get our OS road maps attended to by the organiser, and were welcomed by friendly remarks from fellow competitors – many aimed at Ding about actually being on time for once.
Oxford Motor Club staged ‘The Dragon’ 12 Car Rally in the wonderful lanes between Oxford and Reading, and on the night, the organisers and competitors were blessed by clear skies and largely dry roads. This was my first time experience on a road rally with OUMF, in its unique ‘TOYO’ Golf Mk2, with Andy Doyle navigating, me helping him as ‘Co-co-Driver’! - and Ding doing what he was told in the drivers seat!
Sunday 18th June
After exams finished we were flat-out at the OUMF shed for three weeks of rebuilding and prepping the rally Riley 1.5, from top to bottom. This included Vlad Ardeleanu’s design and build of an entirely new wiring loom; Dom Norman and Andy Parsons leading the team through an axle and two engine rebuilds (as a cam follower shattered on the Abingdon CAR-nival Stages Rally, which we used as a shakedown for the Ypres Rally); Andy Doyle engineered an ingenious reverse gear lockout, and me, Tolga Karabetca who helped overhaul the suspension, steering and brake systems. Getting all this done in time was largely due to the fantastic support we received with sorting the engine and its associated problems from ARP Bolts, Vibration Free, Init Racing, OCS Automotive Engineering, Kent Cams, THINK Automotive, Westwood Liners, Race Winning Brands Europe, 3J Transmissions, FPS Distribution, Cometic Gaskets, Powerlite, Dave Crisell, Dave Knight Engine Services, G & S Valves, Tony Hall, Wosp, and Fuchs Lubricants. Other heroic sponsors - Phillips Tyres of Oxford, Cartek Motorsport, Connector Concepts Inc., Helix Autosport, TOYO Tires, Lesonal, NGK Spark Plugs, Oxford Wheel Repairs, Mintex, SuperB, Lifeline, Classic Oils, to name just a few – helped us with the electrics, brakes, wheels, tyres, diff, extinguisher system, paintwork and clutch. Jim Morris at Lifeline Fire Systems and Julian Thomas at Racelogic respectively provided further icing on the cake by equipping the Riley with a superb 360 electric fire extinguisher system, and a VBox HD2 system to capture all the action. Though still desperately short of funds, we were committed, and it was now time for the big test for both the team and car – the notoriously tough Ypres Rally!
Update - The OUMF Rally team has once again successfully completed the SOL Rally Barbados!! The Inca Alfa proved its reliability to become one of less than half those starting to finish the event. Preliminary results were looking good with us placed 38th, so we were incredibly happy to find that the Alfa finished an outstanding 34th overall and 2nd in class, in a rally where 19 of the entrants were driving ex-WRC and Group B cars! We would once again like to thank all our great sponsors and supporters, without whom we certainly wouldn't have the opportunity to learn and compete at such a fantastic event! Particular thanks go to Ezra Prescod at SOL Petroleum and Barry Gale at Redline Fuels for coming to the rescue at the eleventh hour and supplying the team with vital race fuel for the event.