The annual ‘Historics on the Hill’ at Lydden is always a cracker, and it is exclusive to members of the
HRDC (Historic Racing Drivers Club) of which OUMF is an invited founder member thanks to our
magnanimous patron Julius Thurgood. The layout of this wonderful little track means that spectators
have unobstructed views of every inch of the racing action, and also the limited number on the grids
translates into a great deal of time spent out on track.
This year the OUMF team brought both the
Sebring Sprite and Riley 1.5, resulting in 8 sessions in five and a half hours between the two cars!
Following all the preparation and packing during the week, the action started early on the Saturday
afternoon as the team drove through Kent in loose convoy on the way to the circuit. Dom Norman’s
very recently acquired Range Rover was leading the way when its radiator split from end to end
driving down the M2 and brought the teams progress to an abrupt halt a little earlier than
anticipated. Many calls were made, but no replacement radiators could be found, so the crack was
slathered in large amounts of JB Weld, and other glues blagged off a kindly RAC man, and against the
odds this got us back on the road, and to Lydden without further issue. This fix also got the Range
Rover back to Oxford on Sunday evening after the races too!
So the team rolled into the circuit, set up the OUMF pit, and retired to the Jackdaw Inn in Denton for some supper, with refreshing drinks - and very overpriced burgers…
The next morning, I arrived at the circuit just before scrutineering. As is often the case now, both
OUMF cars went through with no major issues, testament to the prep work and attention to detail of
the team. With both cars back in the paddock, final spanner-checking and preparation was
underway for the upcoming sessions. Throughout the day I noticed that the OUMF team were quite
capable of splitting up to work on the two cars simultaneously, without focusing on one car too
much, and without having to assign people formal roles. It was good to see the team able to handle
the complexities of running a second car without appearing to break much of a sweat.
The first session out was with the Riley for the Liqui Moly Jack Sears open practice. The Riley’s new
engine – kindly set up by Dom Norman and Ralph Saunders on the local Pitstop rolling road just
before we left on Saturday morning! - was being tested, in addition to a new rear anti-roll bar set up
fitted by Niki Volkov, as free practices are ideal test sessions for new ideas. It had also been fitted
with a new Lifeline rear view mirror, which gives around 3 times the breadth of vision and helped to
place the car on the track with much greater precision. The Riley’s quickest lap was 51.837, with
feedback from the driver of ‘a loose back end’, but otherwise we were quite happy with the car’s
performance, being less than a second off the lap of Ben Colburn in his fast Mini. We noted during
the practice that the Riley was hassling Lotus-Cortinas too - an unprecedented sight!
24 minutes after the end of the Riley’s practice, the Sprite took to the track for its fifth time ever, in
the Dunlop Allstars open practice. Most of the initial build niggles of the Sprite have now been
found, and with two Lifeline door mirrors also fitted, the driver felt much more confident on track.
Ding was also now more practiced in the car, so we were hoping to try and uncover some more of
the setup issues to overcome. The best lap was 50.842, but with a slight complaint about the length
of the brake pedal and lack of feel.
8 minutes later, with an exhausted but excited Ding now back in the Riley, he set off for the Jack
Sears Trophy qualifying session, on the new tyres kindly donated by Phillips Tyres. He managed to
find a couple of tenths, putting in a 51.679 - just 0.035 off Gerry Buggy’s Lotus Cortina, putting the
car 8 th on the grid for the race (and 1 st in the Touring Greats class). However, the complaint of a loose
back end remained, so we decided to disconnect the rear anti-roll bar for the first race and see if we
could give the car a little less weight and less rear weight transfer too.
We had a gap of 30 minutes to make these changes to the Riley while Ding got ready for the Allstars
qualifying in the Sprite, and this felt like a long time by this point. Ding qualified 5 th overall (3 rd in the
GT class) with a time of 50.409, comfortably ahead of 6 th and just behind 4 th . The complaints about
the brakes were louder after the session though, so we realised we would need to find some
solutions for this during the lunch break.
We bled the Sprite brakes but did not manage to get any bubbles out of the system, so we turned
our attention to the pads. The team believed the car had the excellent Mintex 1155’s fitted, but on
further inspection the pads turned out to be Ferodo DS3000, which had both worn significantly and
were showing some signs of heat degradation. Lydden is a tricky circuit for brakes as the relatively
low speed, but very twisty nature of it demands good braking feel, whilst not allowing the heat
dissipation you might get on some of the faster tracks. In order to rule out fade as the cause
completely, we fitted some 1166’s to test them out. Initially the pedal felt better at rest, presumably
due to the hardness of 1166 pads. We also moved some of the brake bias to the rear, as the rear
brakes were not very hot at all, to try and take some of the load off the fronts.
In the first race, the Riley placed 6 th overall in the Jack Sears (and 1 st in the TG class), and managed to
beat Gerry Buggy’s Lotus-Cortina outright, causing much excitement from the team at the track side.
I even caught a stray comment from some passers-by, that it was unbelievable to see a Riley leading
a Cortina. Ding mentioned again that the back end of the car did not feel as planted as it might, and
a plan to adjust the tracking was devised to try and settle the car down a little for the last race. The
best lap was 52.109.
With the ‘quick fire’ sessions over, we brought the Sebring Sprite into the holding area ready for its
first race of the day. A consistent drive allowed the car to climb a place when Ben Colburn’s Sprite
sadly retired, finishing 4 th overall and 2 nd in class, splitting the two Lotus Elans of Gerry Buggy and
Paul Austen. With a best time of 50.652 it was clear that the brakes weren’t doing him any favours
though, and driver feedback confirmed that pedal feel was now poor. There was quite a discussion
about the pad situation, with a few members of the team advocating for putting the Mintex F6R
pads into the Sprite, as pedal feel is supposed to be much better on F6R’s than 1166’s, and some
other members wanting to put the Ferodo pads back in as they had been better than these.
After deciding that it would be better to test the F6R directly back-to-back against the 1166’s, not in
the least so that in future we could have some direct experience of the difference between the two,
we fitted the F6R’s and bled the brakes again.
By the time we’d done all of that, it was time for the Riley’s last race. Once again everyone was
treated to the rare sight of a Lotus Cortina chasing a Riley as it got away from the line well and
managed to pull out some gap at the start. However, he was caught by Richard Colburn, Charlie
Hand and Colin Sowter during the race, and finished with a Class Win, and in 9 th overall. Driver
feedback about the tracking change was that the car did feel much better. A fastest lap of 52.191
showed the car to be no faster than in the first race, though by this point in the day the value of
having a car set up to be slightly more stable cannot be underestimated - as a few spins from the
With the Riley done for the day, everyone turned their attention to the Sprite, as it lined up on the
grid for its last race. Ding started 4 th but had managed to climb into 3 rd during the start to much
excitement from the team. As the race drew to a close, we learned we had been given a 5 second
penalty for exceeding track limits. However, neither the team nor the driver could tell where or why,
and it did not affect the Sprite being placed 4 th overall and 2nd in the GT Class.
There were a number of spins and moments from various drivers (including one big ol’ slide from
Ding on the last corner) which elicited much excitement on the side lines and was testament to the
skills of HRDC drivers that none resulted in any collisions or stoppages. Indeed, by this final session,
Ding’s best time in the Sprite had risen to 51.312 as driver fatigue and tyre degradation started to
affect everyone. Feedback about the Mintex F6R pads were that they were the best pads we had
tried throughout the day, despite not being properly bedded in due to lack of time, so it was good to
see the pad characteristics matching the driver’s comments about their performance, and to
establish that these pads suit the Sprite well.
The final combined results were 6 th overall and 1 st in the TG class with the Riley in the Jack Sears
Trophy, and an impressive 3 rd overall and 1 st in the GT class with the Sprite in the Allstars. A very
good result for a student team ambitiously trying to run 2 project cars at a race meeting, and huge
thank you to Julius Thurgood and the HRDC – as without their support, this meeting, and the last 12
seasons, would have simply never happened…
As a member who has recently graduated and found an excellent job with world-renowned
motorsport engineering firm Crosthwaite and Gardiner, I can personally confirm that there is a huge
and increasing demand for the practical skills and invaluable experiences made freely available by
OUMF to its students. I am now involved in the process of finding the best new employees to fill
vacancies at C&G, and I know the talents nurtured by OUMF – teamwork, enthusiasm, initiative,
commitment, focus, practical knowhow, problem solving, good humour – are exactly the
characteristics most needed to take the business forward.
I am very proud to have had the opportunity, while studying for my degree, to play a part in the
OUMF student team becoming the force in historic racing that it is today. Equally, I now better
appreciate – in a way that I did not as an undergraduate – just how much this achievement owes to
the generous support of the 100’s of companies and supporters across the industry whose
donations, advice, and key services enable such a club, with no funding, to flourish and succeed.
(I also have insight now of how much a professional team might budget to get the same results!!!)
I volunteered to write this race report – usually done by a current student – because it gives me a
rare chance to add my own personal gratitude to all the forward-thinking supporters of OUMF for
the immeasurable ways in which they have all helped to enhance my time in Oxford, my career, and
the life friendships made that evolve from being part of a close-knit and successful team.
So, thanks to all listed in the Supporters section of the OUMF website; I hope many more will come
forward to help secure this unique and highly effective educational enterprise – and the brighter
future of British motorsport engineering.
James Martin - Senior Designer, Crosthwaite and Gardiner