A huge amount of effort was expended for many days (and very late nights) prior to the event, as the Riley’s engine and gearbox both required complete rebuilds after running a bearing at HRDC Snetterton in July. Added to this was the repairing and fitting of replacement front panels – on top of all the admin and logistics involved in getting the team and all its equipment and the Riley there for this five day festival in Sussex.
The team set off early on the Wednesday morning, in order to get the best camping space possible. Again Phillips Tyres saved the day by sorting out two of the trailer tyres on the way, and the convoy - consisting of two vans and two trailers, with Ding Boston and Jamie Higgins at the helm of each. A crash on the A34 delayed our arrival until lunchtime – but by the time we arrived arrived safely at Goodwood, there were still some suitable camping areas to choose from in the Competitors Campsite E field. We quickly roped off an area for our base, with enough room for Mike from our great sponsors at Owslebury Crankshaft Sevices to put his large camper van when he arrived on Thursday evening too. The substantial job of assembling our ‘Le Mans’ style marquee was dealt with in under 20 minutes by Ding Jamie and the rest of the OUMF vanguard of Niall Geoghegan, Tolga Karabetca, Andy Doyle, Ben Scothern, Bobby Bragg and Nikita Volkov. The marquee - large enough to fit a 1980’s Le Mans car, and with sufficient room to comfortably work around it - would become the team’s home for the next four days, which would include Vlad Ardeleanu, James Martin, Don Norman, Andy Parsons, Liam Duffy and Alex Champion, who joined us later.
When our campsite was all set up we took the Riley from our base across the road and into the circuit to install the car and all our tools in our paddock shelter, number 289, right alongside the grass airfield that occupies the centre of the Goodwood race track. Already parked alongside us were our familiar competitors in the HRDC race series, the ‘Bonhams’ Riley 1.5, to be driven by James Wood, and the Wolseley 1500 of Max Cawthorne, as well as many other varied racers we would be battling on track. It’s fair to say we weren’t anticipating an easy race on Saturday! It was a rather curious insight into the Revival before it opened its doors to the public. The set pieces were still being put together and an army of support staff were rushing around putting the final ‘period’ touches to the paddock. The whole place would change dramatically for the opening on Friday, by which time the 1950’s backdrop provided a spectacle that was totally convincing. On our return to the campsite, Jamie’s enormous barbecue was fired up in order to prepare dinner for the whole team in the evening. This concluded a rather busy day of setting up and preparation for scrutineering the following day on Thursday, the practice on Friday, and the main event, The Jack Sears Memorial Trophy on Saturday.
Despite the fact that the on-track action only began on Friday, Thursday was perhaps one of the most interesting days we had at the Revival. After final set-up of the Riley’s paddock shelter, it was time to head over to the driver’s cricket match, held on the expansive lawns in front of Goodwood House. Whilst the spectacle of cricket may not have captivated everyone, the atmosphere certainly did. The drivers and their guests gathered around the cricket pitch enjoying tea and cakes, and after stumps were drawn, all assembled in the large marquee where the driver’s briefing took place – but not until the excellent aerobatic display by a single Spitfire was over! The magnificent engine note of the 27 litre V12 Rolls Royce Merlin engine hung in the air, changing in pitch as the plane effortlessly executed manoeuvres above us.
After the welcoming speech and many words of caution by Lord March at the driver’s briefing, the driver’s and their guests made their way towards the Goodwood House for an ‘invitation only’ cocktail party on the back lawn. Of course, as with the admission tickets for the Revival itself, Ding somehow ensured that the whole team had a tickets to go to it. The Veuve Cliquot champagne flowed freely for a couple of hours until dusk fell, and we met all manner of interesting people, including the creator of TV’s Robot Wars, and George Ullyett who has kindly allowed the OUMF student team to use his engineering works as their base on our several trips to race in the SOL Rally in Barbados.
We lost Bobby Bragg and James Martin briefly in the darkness that had fallen when we came to leave at the end of the party, but once they were rediscovered, we returned to our base camp. James had little option but to retire to bed immediately, but the rest of the team had a very jolly evening enjoying more of Jamie’s excellent cooking and Julian Crossley’s hospitality - one of our friends from the HRDC - at his enormous twin motorhome pitch near ours in the Campsite. Mike from OCS arrived later in his camper, found us all in a very animated state…and went to bed.
On Friday morning we were woken up by what was possibly the most expensive alarm clock in the world; a trio of Spitfires and a Hurricane flying overhead. First focus for OUMF was preparation for Scrutineering, followed by the main event of the day, the qualifying session for the Jack Sears Memorial Trophy. One of the advantages of a large team is that it allows a really comprehensive full spanner-check of the car to be completed in less time - so every detail can be inspected to ensure everything is ready for the track. As it turned out, excessive play was discovered in the front left lower trunnion. The OUMF team has suffered three Riley trunnion failures over the last few years, resulting in dramatic front suspension collapse at speed, so it was a straightforward decision to replace it. The part was swapped, and the suspension reassembled, and for this we received the generous help of Tony Hall, who arrived and presented the team with a grease gun! Scrutineering was carried out by officials who came to our paddock shelter, and in spite of all our worries about the process, the Riley passed without any issues arising. An enormous relief to the team, and a vindication of all the hard work that was put in beforehand in Oxford.
However, unfortunately, the qualifying session did not proceed with the same smoothness, or work out in our favour. Ding departed the assembly area on to the track, only to find out immediately that the Riley had lost both 3rd and 4th gears. However he nursed it slowly round the track in 2nd gear and into the pit lane, where the team rapidly deduced that the problem was a bolt that had come loose on the gear selectors. It was very odd, as the Riley had performed without a problem when road tested in Oxford before we left, but quickly found and fixed, but it did mean that we had not even done a single qualifying lap and that – if we were lucky - we would therefore be starting from the very back of the grid in Saturday’s race. Following our retirement from the session, and after we had pinpointed the problem, Ding went to see the Clerk of the Course to explain what had happened, and ask if we could join in a later practice session. He was quite frustrated by the bizarre decision that was made by this custodian of safety, whereby, in order to check the car when fixed, we were allowed, eventually, to take part in the qualifying for the “St Mary’s Trophy” race - but at the back of the pack, and only for one ‘out and in’ lap. This meant that we would start the race without proper testing of the car after its repair, without doing even a single flying lap, and on a track that Ding had not driven on in the Riley for over three years. Having failed to reason any further with race officials (who failed to ask if he had ever driven at Goodwood before)-, he had to settle for this one truncated lap as better than nothing, and we focused our thoughts and preparation on the race to come. The evening was spent watching a grid worth over £200 million battle in the hour long Kinrara Trophy – which everyone agreed was one of the most exciting races ever seen at Goodwood - whilst the sun set dramatically over the circuit.
Clouds gathered over the track on Saturday, and the increasingly damp air suggested rain. During the race preparation, one of our many visitors was Robs Lamplough, a former British single seater racing driver - and, it turned out, winner of the Barbados Grand Prix in a U2 Mallock in the 1970’s. However, he told us - as he tried out the Riley driver’s seating position - that he was to be driving a much more powerful car in the shape of the BRM V16 on track on Sunday! Soon after lunch, the Riley was given its last pre-race checks, and sent off to the assembly area. The cars lined up on the grid for the start of the Jack Sears Memorial Trophy, with No 11, our grey Riley 1.5, right at the back of the 30 car grid. After a quick start, Ding managed to make up five to six places by the end of the first lap, sailing by the likes of the Sunbeam Rapier, and Hillman Minx. After several laps an exciting three way battle for position developed, with the Riley chasing a black Volkswagen Beetle, which it passed, before hounding a white Ford Zephyr. The rain that threatened the race never appeared, and it stayed dry from flag to flag. The Riley finished in a very hard fought 14th place, with less than a second behind Ben Colburn’s Morris Minor. This result – from the back of the grid in just 25 minutes - was made even more incredible by the fact that the gearshift lever had snapped on lap two! Ding managed to fight his way through the field, shifting with what little remained of the gearstick. We only learned about this after he rolled into ‘parc ferme’ at the end of the race waving the gearstick out of the window!
As the circuit closed at the end of another day of fantastic action on track, the team managed to get the VW van into the circuit and, with our racing over, we removed all our pit shelter equipment – bar a few essentials which would fit in the Riley - in order to make the fastest possible getaway on Sunday evening.
That evening was the famous Goodwood Drivers Party – a grand themed event for 1500 guests – with the dress code this year being ‘Steam Punk’. In recognition of his major part in the success of the OUMF team this season, Ding gave his tickets to Dom Norman, who, wearing top hat, tailcoat, goggles, and other accessories, took his girlfriend Beth to the ball. While they dined and danced the night away with the stars of motorsport on the airfield, the rest of the team shared the magnum of champagne Dom left as a thank you to Ding, and another superlative stew prepared by Jamie, in the great ‘Le Mans’ marquee.
On Sunday, before we went over to watch the racing, we dismantled the marquee and packed all our stuff as Jamie had to leave with his van and the box trailer at midday. In went the marquee, and much other stuff, until it was nearly full, and our van was also filled too – leaving us with just the Riley to retrieve from the pits and load into the ‘Tony Hall’ trailer later. We waved Jamie off, and then spent the rest of the day enjoying both the racing and all the other sights and ‘off track’ action of the Revival. The vast variety of racing ranged from 1960’s Ferrari and Lotus Grand Prix cars battling to the line, to an 89 year old BMW R57 motorcycle charging through the field to take a win. Apart from the racing, we toured the amazing racing cars in the paddocks, the multitude of stands, stalls and attractions - and even enjoyed the hospitality of the Driver’s Club! The team spent a lot of time during the event interacting and chatting with the public at our pit shelter, and one great encounter – amongst so many - was with former F1 and endurance driver, Jochen Mass. He dropped by our paddock and spent nearly an hour chatting with the OUMF team, inspecting the Riley, and advising on all aspects of the car’s race build and presentation.
Sadly we learned that a long-time friend of OUMF, the racing driver Barry ‘Whizzo’ Williams had died at home after fall during the weekend. Later we heard that our great supporter Anthony Binnington, who had kindly helped us with tickets, had broken down on the first lap of his race with another one of a series of gearbox failures that have dogged his ex-Peter Revson Cooper Formula Junior.
However, overall it had been an incredible weekend, and wonderful that so many OUMF supporters took the trouble to visit us in our pit shelter and wish us well. Indisputably though, the highlight for all of us was seeing the little Riley 1.5 blasting around the Goodwood circuit, defying all the odds, and the expectations of many of the spectators.
I cannot possibly mention every one of the hundreds of sponsors and supporters to whom we are all so grateful for enabling - in a multitude of ways - the OUMF team to get to the Revival at all. However it would be rude not to thank the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, Julius Thurgood, and all the Goodwood team for the lifetime memories and everything else arising from our invitation to attend, and also all those who helped us find the extra tickets that left no member of OUMF’s large and dedicated team at home and disappointed.
With one accord the team hopes that another inspirational opportunity to attend and race at the extraordinary Goodwood Revival will be extended to us again soon.
Nikita Volkov (Brookes 1st Year Motorsport Engineering)