Having completed all the various improvements the team had decided to make to the Riley racer after Thruxton on June 13th, and ‘fixed’ the Sprinter race van’s vast thirst for coolant, the OUMF team was eager to get back out on track at the ‘Home of Rallycross’ at Lydden Hill on 4th July 2021. This small, twisting and undulating race circuit is the polar opposite of Thruxton with it high speeds, and long fast corners, but both are notoriously hard on tyres, and we were immensely grateful to Phillips Tyres for supporting the team with a fresh set.
Despite Lydden Hill in Kent being far closer to France than Oxford, the journey down there on Saturday was initially uneventful, with 3 of the team in the OUMF Sprinter race van, and 5 in Dom Norman’s VW Passat hybrid…which would later turn out to be OUMF’s next project car. The van, to everyone’s relief, no longer drank coolant, and behaved impeccably…all the way to the M40 / M25 junction. At this point the perennial problem returned; the ‘engine warning light’ began to flash and once again, we lost the turbo and went into ‘limp home’ mode. Luckily Stretch Talbot had donated his old OBD reader which was soon plugged in by David Sellars and Nikita Volkov on reaching the hard shoulder, and the codes scanned and cleared. We discovered this would allow the van to run normally again for between 5 and 20 minutes…before it all happened again. This process was gone through maybe 15 – 20 times before we finally reached pretty Lydden Hill. By the end of the journey the clearing of the codes was 2nd nature and down to a fine art!
When the full team had arrived at the circuit, the race kit was quickly and efficiently unpacked. We all paid careful attention to the layout of the gazebos, as the weather forecast warned of heavy rain on Sunday morning – possibly making for some very wet races the following day.
Bobby Bragg had again booked a superb pub for the evening – The Jackdaw Inn, in the nearby village of Denton - where a lovely meal was had by all. Afterwards, one half of the team travelled back to the circuit in Jalal Mehdizada’s BMW, and Ding and the rest in Dom Norman’s new Passat Hybrid – which sprung a large fuel leak from under the bonnet and conked out half way back. Jalal then picked up Ding to take him back to the Sprinter at Lydden, and with a towrope from the Westbourne team, he was able to go back and tow the Passat back to the paddock for further inspection. All whilst the remainder of the team sat enjoying the England v Ukraine in the comfort of the Westbourne awning.
After a thorough inspection it was discovered that not only was a number of the fuel injector bolts loose but a torn injector ‘O’ ring seal would lead to a shower of fuel when the injector pump was primed. However, no suitable ‘O’ rings could be sourced and so the Passat was put to one side in preparation for the exciting racing next morning.
Sunday 4th July - Race day!
With 8 sessions on track ahead of us, and often little or no time between them, the team was set for a busy day. Light rain was falling when James Martin and Aidan Challis arrived at 8.30am having driven through torrential storms on the way from Rochester, but luckily these downpours never reached us, and the track soon dried out in the heat, giving us a sunny and humid day of racing. Julius Thurgood kindly donated food and drink ‘all day breakfast’ vouchers to the team to be used in the track café, and the Riley was soon ‘spanner checked’ before the first free practice session at 10.30am. The car went well with Ding trying out the new brake master cylinder changes installed by Niki Volkov since Thruxton. The pedal travel was found to be a little long and the brake bias was adjusted before the second free practice for the Dunlop Allstars free practice. Subsequently Ding took 1 second off his fastest lap from the previous session.
The next session was the qualifying for the Jack Sears Trophy which went off without incident and the Riley qualified 6th on the grid and 1st in Class. With the car back in the paddock afterwards for refuelling, Ahron Becquart discovered the petrol jerry can – marked 99 Octane - was actually still filled with the emergency water needed for the van’s massive water leak on the way back from Thruxton! Whilst James Martin and Aidan Challis rushed off to a local garage for some fuel, it was calculated that the remaining petrol in the tank would last approximately 8 laps. This would give Ding long enough to get the three obligatory qualifying laps in for the Allstars and a couple more fast ones too before he’d have to return to the paddock and avoid the ignominy of running out of petrol. He came in after 7 laps and the car qualified 8th on the grid and 3rd in Class with a 51.665 second lap. Oddly, when the tank was drained and refilled it appeared it still had enough petrol left to drive to France!
Some tyre and pressure changes were made during a very short lunch break in preparation for the 1st of the 2 part ‘Jack Sears Trophy’ race. To allow Ding enough time to try and eat something, the team pushed the Riley over to the Collection Area so it was ready to go straight out on track. He managed only a couple of mouthfuls of a sandwich before he had to run to the car, and as it moved out on to the track he immediately noticed a rhythmic grinding noise from the front of the car – and fearing the wheel nuts were loose, he illegally reversed the Riley back into the Collection Area, and then drove back to our pit in the paddock for further investigation. With the front wheels off, it was soon discovered that a vital wheel spacer had been left off behind the front nearside wheel, allowing the rim to contact the track rod and brake calliper as it revolved. Instead of staying with the hub, the spacer had stuck itself to the back of the wheel that had been replaced over lunch, and so had been overlooked when the new wheel went back on. Although the team moved very quickly and had the issue identified and solved within a minute or less, by that time the race was already underway, and could not be rejoined.
After the disappointment of missing the 1st race of the ‘Jack Sears Trophy’, the 1st race of the ‘Dunlop Allstars’ was soon upon us. In this, the Riley was facing a field of sports cars – from Mini Coopers, Elans and Healey 3000, to Sebrings and other Sprites, and a one-off Pandora SP. Nevertheless, the Riley finished in 7th place, and 2nd in class whilst the Mini Coopers of Jordan and Colburn had a great battle for 1st.
The next session was Part 2 of the ‘Jack Sears Trophy’, but, as the Riley hadn’t been able to race in Part 1, the car had to start from the back of the grid. It made a good start, overtaking numerous cars off the line, but with this track offering so little opportunity to overtake safely, the Riley did well to climb to 8th Place Overall, and 1st in Class. This averaged out to be a 2nd in Class on aggregate for the 2 parts of the ‘Jack Sears Trophy’ - which was a great result considering the team didn’t start one race!
The final race of the day saw the Riley once again go up against the ‘Dunlop Allstars’ field in Part 2. The Riley took 9th place Overall, and 3rd in class. This saw the OUMF team 2nd in Class on aggregate in the ‘Dunlop Allstars’ too.
The traditional HRDC Prize Giving saw us presented with 2 trophies, i.e. ‘Golden Oscars’ for 2nd places in both the races. It was also a great opportunity to talk to other teams and for us all to thank Julius Thurgood for once again allowing us to race in his great HRDC races, and here, we want to thank all our many wonderful supporters too without whom we would never gain these fantastic motorsport experiences. Thanks too to Jalal, Ahron & Becca for helping to ferry the team back to Oxford after the Passat got relayed!
The weekend highlighted no great issues with the car, but it was felt that when a car reaches this level of development, every tiny detail must be considered in order to eke out further speed, reliability and serviceability from the amazing Riley. And with the prospect of the 3 Hour Relay at Donington on July 17th, plus HRDC Castle Combe, and the crowning glory of the Goodwood Revival too, it was decided that the new race engine must finally be assembled for Goodwood to ensure we can meet all these exciting challenges.
[Race Report by David Sellars, Engineering at Brookes]
Team Members – Ding Boston, Dom Norman, James Martin, Ahron Becquart, Aidan Challis, Tash Lewis, Bobby Bragg, Tom Grant, Jalal Mehdizada, David Sellars, Nikita Volkov and Vlad Ardeleanu.
POSTSCRIPT – The Miracle on the M2!
After the many stops that had to be made every 10 or so miles on the way to Lydden by the Sprinter van in order to clear the engine light/fault codes/limp home issues with the OBD, it was expected that the journey back to Oxford would be more of the same. And sure enough, the engine light/limp home mode happened almost as soon as we left the circuit. We limped into the first filling station we came to on the M2, as we needed diesel as well as to reset the codes with the OBD, and it was as we were doing this that Dom suggested why not try ‘Jamie Higgins’ Magic Elixir’ – and add a litre of 2 stroke oil to the diesel? The van’s symptoms were not the same as the Volvo XC90’s, or his old Honda Estate, but doing this had had a dramatic and so far unexplained effect on them – so, for the sake of a small can of 2 stroke, why not just try the same thing in the tank and see what happens?
Well, with the grim prospect of another 140 odd miles and around 14 possible stops needed to clear codes in front of us, this last straw was clutched, and a can of 2 stroke oil was duly poured into the tank with the diesel.
Alikazam! The engine light never came on again and the Sprinter galloped back to Oxford without any issues at all. A totally unbelievable result, especially given how much time, effort and other cures have been tried over the past year to fix the Sprinter’s problem. Why does it work? Nobody seems to know. Will the cure last? We’ll see – but it transformed the Sprinter on Sunday, which got us back – so bless you once again Mr Higgins!