OUMF WINS 7 TROPHIES…in 4 EVENTS… in 3 COUNTRIES…in 3 WEEKS - in 3 PROJECT CARS!
(and, it should be added, after 49 weeks of hard work!). I know it is hard to conceive, but it is true, & I hope this tried & tested - & transparent! – journalist’s ploy lures you to abandon work for a moment & continue reading!
DEBUTANTE HAS BALL AT SILVERSTONE…
That ‘deb’ was OUMF’s all new Riley 1.5 racer, & its first appearance on track was only as a result of Julius Thurgood’s munificent commitment to his ‘vampire’ vision - to encourage young blood into historic racing! He indicated to the OUMF team that his patronage was ongoing after their second successful HRDC season in 2012, & this gave the students the confidence they needed to build their first bespoke race car - knowing they would be able to race & develop such a project on its completion. Using everything they had learned on their original Riley rally/race car, & with advice, parts & help from every corner of motorsport, the car that emerged from the cowshed after 18 months & lapped Silverstone in April’s HRDC opening meet, was a flyer. Sadly, the exit of the rear core plug at full chat going into Luffield meant a dramatic 690 (approx!) degree spin. The never-say-die students had the engine out & in again in an hour in time for the Allstars race, before ignition issues brought early retirement. But there was no doubt that the new kids’ creation was substantially faster round the block…& rising excitement as they addressed its teething problems.
Mike Atwell is a Barbados businessman & petrol head whose visit to the OUMF stand at Race Retro in 2013 led to his amazing offer of a place for the students to stay should we get to the 2014 SOL Rally. Alongside Atwell Export, Mike owns AtwellHolidayVillas.com - & Julielm House in Bridgetown is a jewel in his portfolio. Sadly all our efforts to get there in 2013 had foundered, so this brilliant news kick-started our campaign to try & get the ‘Inca’ Alfa & another team to this fantastic event in 2014. With this first high hurdle of accommodation cleared, & the Barbados Rally Club and George & Geoffrey Ullyett’s Machine Shop happy to have us back, other sponsors - Phillips Tyres of Oxford, Geestline, Virgin Atlantic, Just Grillin’, Redline Fuels - began to come on board through the winter too. We began to dare hope…& redoubled our efforts into the spring…
OUMF IN INDUSTRY
One aspect of an engineering degree that is almost entirely absent from the curriculum for Oxford students is the field trip, or industry visit, which provides such an important bridge between the lecture hall & the real world. Understanding this, OUMF tries to organize as many visits to our supporters as time will allow, & while they will include a tour of the workplace, they usually include a practical demonstration of that firms’ particular prowess too. A seminar from an expert, based around rebuilding a major part of one of the students’ projects in which ‘hands on’ participation is invited, gives the extra incentive of self-interest which all helps to keep young minds sharply focused - as knowledge is gulped in. To spend a day at the elbow of master coach builder Brian Wheeler, plumb-meister Matt Potter at MOCAL, machining expert John Gray at Owslebury Crankshafts, cogsmith Bill McDonagh at Hardy Engineering, ‘Wobbly’ Steve Smith at Vibration Free, Ralph Saunders at Pitstop’s rolling road, race engine guru John Wright at MASS, or Dave Crizzell, the genius who is All Stage Cylinder Heads (to name just a few) is an engineer’s nirvana. On top of what is learned, the students leave with a proper understanding of just how much more time, experience, & attention to detail than they expected is needed to produce the best result - & why the costs of these skills are justified. And when they learn how quickly this pool of talent is drying up, this gives many of them the appetite to gain these skills themselves. If they don’t get out on these trips & see & hear from the horse’s mouth, they will never fully understand the present skills crisis in British industry. We salute all those who give their time to the members, or, like John Yea at British Motor Heritage, create fantastic race car building opportunities for OUMF students needing annual work placements. We often struggle to find the words to thank them, but many echo the words of Chris Conoley at MASS Dynos…‘If we in the industry don’t help you and do this, who the hell will?!’ Who indeed?!
Shows, & especially the NEC Autosport Show & wonderful Race Retro at Stoneleigh, are staples of OUMF’s year.
They are the best venues to meet & thank our many generous supporters, discover new products & make new friends, & of course to find the sponsors that OUMF so desperately needs to be able to continue its work. Our reception at shows in 2014, & especially on our stand at the NEC Lancaster Classic Motor Show in November, was extremely encouraging. At Autosport, after a chat over coffee with dear Tim Howes at NGK, many of the new members found it difficult to believe that on stand after stand they visited, OUMF was known, supported, & they were offered every kind of help with, & advice about their projects. While we believe OUMF’s mission is worthy of industry support without qualification, it is also universally acknowledged that one of the surest ways of ensuring future business is to put one’s products in the hands of youngsters who are likely to need or use them in their careers.
Firstly they will always feel well-disposed towards those companies who helped them when they were starting out. Secondly, when they reach a position to buy for themselves, or on behalf of their company, they are likely to base purchasing decisions on tools they are familiar with, products that they associate with being well-made & dependable, & services of a known high quality. After graduating, Oxford students famously go on to be owners, managers, & among the highest earners & achievers in their chosen fields - & ‘those with OUMF’ are no exception, with ex-members now in all F1 teams, & others racing up the career ladder in every branch of motorsport & engineering. OUMF only ever asks for things that it really needs to function, & take the students & their projects forward.
So please help OUMF to equip them with what is needed to get British engineering off its knees, & contribute to your future prosperity in the process too. (For instance, we are still hoping that someone will donate a mill to the workshop!)
BARBADOS, BRANDS, and YPRES CONQUERED!
We delivered the ‘Inca’ Alfa to Geestline shipping in Portsmouth docks on May 2nd, ‘deadline day’, still unsure of where the balance of what the team needed was going to come from - so, hairy stuff! However, when we flew into Barbados on May 20th, dear John & Barbara Sealy met us at the airport & kindly lent the team their own venerable Discovery for our stay. Staying at Mike Atwell’s beautiful Julielm House, we gained the support of enthusiastic Ezra Prescod, head of SOL petroleum, & Francis Gonsalves who owns the excellent Just Grillin’ restaurants - & our fuel and food anxieties evaporated in the heat of their generosity.
Two days later, without warning, after storming the first run of the qualifying ‘King of the Hill’, the Alfa’s diff exploded into 100 bits! With no spare, no Alfa’s on the island, & no funds, our goose looked cooked - so in desperation we put out a global SOS on the internet. We were almost dumbfounded beyond thanks when Quaife Engineering offered to assemble & send us a prototype within 24 hours! OUMF supporter Zip Zerihan collected & flew out with it, & the student team, helped by Geoffrey Ullyett’s Machine Shop, worked days & through the final night to affect repairs & fit the Quaife. The car drove again at 6am…the rally began at 7am…& two days & 24 stages later, against all expectations, we finished 34th /90 Overall, and 2nd in Class. (Such was the flawless performance of the Quaife diff on this punishing test that we were delighted to announce the 2015 launch of their amazing Alfa 105 ATB on our stand at the recent NEC Classic Motor Show). The team flew back courtesy of Virgin Atlantic - grateful, knackered but triumphant - & returned to Oxford for 4 days of prep on their Riley 1.5’s. This hard work paid off at HRDC Brands the following weekend in the new Riley racer, where the team won two more trophies - & ‘Drive of the Meeting’! Stalwart supporter Stuart Talbot of T&T Motors kindly took the racer back to Oxford - while the team set off directly after prize-giving to catch the ferry to Belgium with the famous OUMF Riley 1.5 rally car!
Such was the enthusiasm of the organizers of the Ypres Historic Rally to have the OUMF student team & the Riley back for a third successive year, that almost every item of expense was taken care of. While Phillips Tyres & TOYO Tires kept the car on the tarmac, we are also grateful to La Menu Transoil for fuel, Pat & Chris Verschaeve for food & accommodation, Gaby Goudezeune for workshop space, & Geert Hardeman for ferries. This was truly amazing generosity, & the team did what they could to surpass all expectations. At the end of this very hard 2 day rally, the OUMF Riley mounted the podium to receive 2 trophies - for another Class win, with no penalties - & against an amalgamated class that included 1970’s Golfs, Astras, Kadetts, Visa’s & BMW’s!!! Neither we, nor our fans, could believe it - but the opening headline is now explained and justified!
A GOLDEN YEAR
By any measure, the OUMF students have achieved so much in 2014 under the leadership of president Tom Maitland. A gifted practical engineer, he has inspired & given confidence to those around him throughout his 3 years here, & all members have learned by his example. He leaves a strong team platform for 2015 and since the last exciting HRDC races at Donington, members have been working hard to further develop the Riley and their other projects to raise their game and extend their experience and learning across the spectrum of motorsport still further next season.
2015 will see OUMF celebrate its 10th anniversary as a voluntary, independent, self-funded student initiative. Since 2005 its student members have completed & competed in several self built historic cars in a multitude of national & international race and rally events. It has become an MSA club, & the most active student club, & successful race team at Oxford since the glory days of the 1950’s. It has introduced 100’s of students to historic motorsport, & better equipped a generation of young Oxford engineers for their present careers in the industry. All this - & it still without proper facilities, or funding to meet even the most basic overheads like electricity in the workshop! We can only hope that this appeal for help falls on sympathetic ears, & wish all our friends and sponsors a very successful 2015.
With many thanks for your continuing support - from Ding and all the OUMF students.