During the week building up to the weekend, the Riley was thoroughly checked and prepared to race with everyone wanting to finish the season on a high to carry us into the winter. A lot of organising was required to ensure OUMF was able to field its largest ever team to a race weekend. With most of the preparations and packing done by late on Thursday evening, the engine was fired up to check for any potential problems. The warm up appeared to be going fine, until it was noticed that the water pump casting had cracked through the alternator mounting hole, and so leaving everyone fearful that the weekend might be over before it had begun. As the night got later, two replacement pumps were found that could be used if the broken pump couldn’t be fixed.
To everyone’s relief, the water pump was somehow welded by a friend of Dom’s during Friday and after a lot of hard work machining and team working, the water pump was refitted. Thank heavens the Riley ran perfectly when tested on Friday evening.
Hall's Garage 70th Anniversary Celebrations
Saturday morning started promptly with the team leaving the HQ early and travelling to Halls Garage in Bourne in Lincolnshire to visit Steve Hall and his expert team with the aim of learning all we could about the Sebring Sprite from them. The journey seemed to be going smoothly, until the Astra went into limp mode after losing the turbo. With unsuccessful attempts to get out of limp mode, Vlad nevertheless continued to try to reach Halls Garage on time. About an hour later, the engine died on a large roundabout, leaving those in the Astra a little anxious. Fortunately, it restarted ten minutes later, and all was fine, including the turbo, so the journey continued.
The team arrived at Halls Garage around midday and were very warmly greeted by both the sun and the many Sprite and MG owners and enthusiasts who attended too. Everyone was intrigued by the Halls’ racing Sebring Sprite and it captured the imagination of all. Nearly all the details on the car were inspected, with many discussions as to why and how things had been done, which in turn fostered new ideas for the OUMF Sprite.
Everyone at OUMF is very grateful for opportunity and generosity of Steve Hall and the rest of Halls Garage to host the team for a wonderful and interesting afternoon.
HRDC Season Finale: 'All Stars' and 'Touring Greats'
From Bourne, the team travelled on in good spirits to Donington race track, where everyone managed to access the track (in spite of a slight ticket shortage) and the set up began. Everyone worked together to unpack the van and trailer, erect tents and set up our paddock pit and our camp for the rest of the weekend. The team were so efficient there was time to sign on and scrutineer the Riley, then relax in the trailer before we went to dinner at the localpub. The food was good and it was a great opportunity for the new and old members to get to know each other better. Afterwards, the team headed back to the circuit for the evening, where Tony Hall soon arrived and many of us continued to socialise and enjoy the rest of the evening – including a track walk - before bedding down for the night.
On Sunday morning, OUMF woke up to heavy rain and a far more typical autumn day than Saturday had been. Fortunately, it did little to dampen the spirits of the team who set about erecting our marquees that weren’t assembled because of the wind the previous night. The team didn’t have to wait long before the Riley was on track for the first practice – the HRDC Allstars qualifying session. Due to the quantity of rain that had fallen, there was a lot of standing water around the circuit which made driving very difficult for everyone, but the weather suited the front-wheel drive Minis who shot to the front of the field. Ding drove well to keep the Riley on track and make it to the end of the session – in spite of being punted in the rear by an over driven Mini going into Redgate, the first corner. It made contact with the Riley, resulted in minor damage to the driver’s side rear sill, much to Ding’s annoyance. Even with the incident, Ding qualified the Riley 25 th out of 41 cars that had entered.
It was hard for Ding to suggest any setup changes to the car due the weather conditions, so the car was thoroughly checked for any problems and the team instead tried what they could to stop the condensation forming on the windows that was dramatically affecting vision.
The second qualifying session, for the HRDC ‘Touring Greats’, saw similar weather conditions and lap times. Thankfully the Riley wasn’t involved with any on-track incidents. The team’s efforts to reduce the condensation had started to help, improving the visibility. With better fortune, Ding qualified 23 rd , successfully improving on his qualifying time in the ‘Allstars’ race by nearly half a second.
With the torrential rain forecast to continue throughout the afternoon, the main aim for the two races was to get the Riley to the chequered flag in one piece.
Before the first race, HRDC Allstars, it was noticed that the Riley was running low on engine oil. Thankfully, due to some persuasive talking, more engine oil was obtained, allowing the car to race.
Our first race of the afternoon was the HRDC ‘Allstars’, cut short by delays to just 15 minutes from the normal 30. Right from the start, the front-wheel drive Minis raced off into the rain, leaving the rear-wheel driven cars in their wake – quite literally! Throughout the race, there was good wheel-to-wheel racing across the field, but from the pit wall, there appeared to be minor scare on the final lap. The car ahead of Ding spun at the first corner, leaving only the inside of the corner available to pass, but at the same time, a Mini was quickly closing in on the two cars in preparation to lap them. Fortunately, all cars got through without any collisions. With the extra place gained, the OUMF Riley went on to finish 21 st .
The final race of the weekend, and the season, was the HRDC ‘Touring Greats’, which, through a series of incidents through the day, was also very delayed, and reduced in time to 30 minutes from 45. This almost came as a blessing because by the time the team were ready to get the car warmed up, the rain had eased - to everyone’s relief! Just as things were looking good for the race, and we were practicing the ‘driver change’ procedure, the Riley hit a problem; the starter motor failed to turn the engine. The team sprang into action, and tried to fit a spare starter motor from the rally Riley, but found insurmountable issues in the time available. So at the last second the Riley shot off with a push and no starter – and the hope that it wouldn’t stall. It had to start at the back of the field – from the pit lane - which was a bit of a blow, given the improving track conditions.
Despite starting from the back, Ding made up five places on the first lap. After 3 laps, the Riley was looking quick and had made up a further two places into 29 th position. However, the excitement of the team on the pit wall dissipated when the Riley limped into the pits onmthe fourth lap, when a decrease in oil pressure forced OUMF’s early retirement from the race. It was hugely disappointing way to end the season, but the right decision was made to ensure the car stayed in one piece and prevent any further mechanical damage. Nevertheless, the team had performed impressively and pulled together while enduring some of the worst weather in many years without losing its sense of humour, and it had overcome problems that might otherwise have meant an even earlier finish to our weekend.
OUMF left Donington with their heads high after an incredible season, which will be remembered fondly by everyone. None of this could be done without the hard work and dedication of Ding and the whole team working toward a common goal. Everyone at OUMF is very grateful and thankful for all the time, effort, resources and generosity from friends and sponsors – especially Julius Thurgood and the HRDC - without whom, OUMF wouldn’t be able to achieve and learn as much as they have.
As the attention starts to turns towards next season, the winter looks set to see new, innovative projects leap forward; everyone fuelled by the willingness to learn and the passion to go racing!
(2 nd Year Motorsport Engineering at Brookes)