On Monday May 2nd, the OUMF team raced in both the HRDC ‘Coys Trophy BTCC Celebration’ and ‘Touring Greats’ races at the beautiful Donington Park circuit. This was a splendid opportunity to use the straight through side pipe specially made for us by BTB Exhausts, as the Donington Classic has no noise limits due to being under the flight path of East Midlands Airport. We had only had the opportunity to use the side pipe once before – at the same event in 2015 - where it had received a great reception from spectators, and we hoped that this year would be no different. We were also testing the modified adjustable front lever arm adjustable dampers, which we hoped would give us an edge by significantly reducing the unsprung mass of the car.
We arrived at the circuit the evening before and met up with Tom Maitland and Ingo Jahn, two veteran OUMF members who everybody was looking forward to speaking to and hearing how they were doing. The wind was blowing a gale, and it was starting to rain slightly, so everyone worked hard to get the marquee and tents set up in case the weather deteriorated any further.
The next morning was mostly dry, and we prepared the Riley for scrutineering, which it passed, as did ex-OUMF Tim Cotgrove’s bright red Ford Anglia and Tony Hall’s ever more powerful VX490 Vauxhall. The arrival of dedicated OUMF supporters Robin and Debbie Maitland with another large tin of delicious home made chocolate brownies gave everyone an added boost too!
Practice for the Coys Trophy went well, with the Riley qualifying 2nd in class. The new dampers caused something of a stir in the paddock and the team had very informative discussions with Mike and Andy Jordan and their team who use the same type on their cars and confirmed that the advised settings the OUMF team had followed in the instructions worked for them.
This was borne out in the next practice session, as the Riley lap times were a second faster in the Touring Greats qualifying, predicting a possible 3rd in class. The straight pipe was also having the desired effect, with spectators visiting us in the paddock to ask how we had made the car so loud. From the pit wall, it was possible to hear the Riley accelerating out of the first corner, and everyone loved it.
When racing began after lunch, the Coys Trophy race went very well indeed, with the Riley eventually battling through to finish 1st in Class – our 3rd ever with the HRDC – and with the car sounding sweet and powerful.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the OUMF team were overjoyed and were hoping for a similar performance in the second race, the ‘Touring Greats’. After a very fast start was followed by a textbook compulsory pit stop of 21 seconds, the car showed superbly consistent lap times, and – lying 4th Overall, our highest placing ever - we dared hope we were set to win the class with only a few minutes left on the clock.
Then unfortunately fate struck, and an "unbreakable" half shaft in the rear axle let go on the pit straight – fortunately leaving just enough space for the car to veer left and come coasting into the pits to limit any further damage. We jacked the car up, but having quickly confirmed the problem, there was no way we could finish the race. Everybody was devastated, although the 1st in class from the previous race was consolation enough, and proved the modifications to the car had been very effective.
Our thanks go as always to Julius Thurgood, for supporting our entry into these great races, as well as BTB for the straight pipe that echoed around the entire circuit for most of the day, and all the other supporters without which none of this would be possible. However our biggest thanks must go to fellow racer Roz Shaw of Laranca Engineering who offered to help the team out of the abyss with replacement half shafts - which was extremely generous and very kind - and will enable the team to continue gaining fantastic race experience with the HRDC this season.