Sunday 18th June
After exams finished we were flat-out at the OUMF shed for three weeks of rebuilding and prepping the rally Riley 1.5, from top to bottom. This included Vlad Ardeleanu’s design and build of an entirely new wiring loom; Dom Norman and Andy Parsons leading the team through an axle and two engine rebuilds (as a cam follower shattered on the Abingdon CAR-nival Stages Rally, which we used as a shakedown for the Ypres Rally); Andy Doyle engineered an ingenious reverse gear lockout, and me, Tolga Karabetca who helped overhaul the suspension, steering and brake systems. Getting all this done in time was largely due to the fantastic support we received with sorting the engine and its associated problems from ARP Bolts, Vibration Free, Init Racing, OCS Automotive Engineering, Kent Cams, THINK Automotive, Westwood Liners, Race Winning Brands Europe, 3J Transmissions, FPS Distribution, Cometic Gaskets, Powerlite, Dave Crisell, Dave Knight Engine Services, G & S Valves, Tony Hall, Wosp, and Fuchs Lubricants. Other heroic sponsors - Phillips Tyres of Oxford, Cartek Motorsport, Connector Concepts Inc., Helix Autosport, TOYO Tires, Lesonal, NGK Spark Plugs, Oxford Wheel Repairs, Mintex, SuperB, Lifeline, Classic Oils, to name just a few – helped us with the electrics, brakes, wheels, tyres, diff, extinguisher system, paintwork and clutch. Jim Morris at Lifeline Fire Systems and Julian Thomas at Racelogic respectively provided further icing on the cake by equipping the Riley with a superb 360 electric fire extinguisher system, and a VBox HD2 system to capture all the action. Though still desperately short of funds, we were committed, and it was now time for the big test for both the team and car – the notoriously tough Ypres Rally!
The Donington Historic Festival has fast become one of the most anticipated events of the year, with star-studded grids and three days of nail biting race action. This year was no different and the OUMF boys' hopes were high following on from the teams’ successful first race of the season at Brands Hatch.
Since that first meeting, the Riley’s engine had been equipped with a new Kent camshaft, and been re-tuned on the rolling road at Pitstop, thanks to the generous support of Andy Burns at Kent, and John Yea at British Motor Heritage, and Ralph Saunders respectively. Our excellent new Lifeline control systems were in place, and what tread remained on our tyres had been balanced and deployed on the car to best advantage with the help of Phillips Tyres. We had also fitted a rear anti roll bar for the first time, and the superbly crafted BTB side exit exhaust system had been fitted for the unsilenced Donington Historic Festival.
On the hottest weekend of the year so far, everything was looking good at the HQ on Saturday ahead of OUMF's first race of the season. The Riley was running beautifully, and by mid-afternoon all prep was done, bar adjusting the clutch - which appeared to need simply bleeding to fix. However, it didn't respond, and with the help of our new Easyview inspection camera inserted into the bellhousing (what a superb bit of kit!), we were able to see that the inaccessible clutch pivot bush had collapsed. Rather than remove the engine at this late stage to get to it, the team ingeniously adapted a smaller diameter clutch slave cylinder to fit. This gave a heavier pedal, but a longer throw - and proved an excellent temporary fix. This allowed us to leave Oxford later than planned, at 7pm, but to still reach the Rising Sun pub near the circuit in time for food and a good evening before quickly setting up in the Brands Hatch paddock and retiring to bed.
Our 2016 HRDC race season has come to an eventful close, full of many spectacular highs and a few emotional lows, but rounded off with a spectacular finale at the superb Donington Park circuit on October 15th. For the Oxford Universities Motorsport Foundation it was an event that will be remembered well by many a veteran and newcomer to the team, for a long time to come.
Leaving earlier on Friday evening, Ding, Vlad and Jack O’ Connell formed the OUMF ‘vanguard’ and successfully secured a pit garage at the circuit. They dropped off the Riley race car and trailer before rendezvousing with the rest of the team at a great local pub called The Plough, a few minutes from the circuit. Following a hearty meal there, the team of 16, in 4 cars, had very little trouble making the 4 tickets and one car pass go a long way on re-entering the circuit! Our thanks to Dave Constable Berry, Andy Parsons, and Jack Swarbrigg for driving and helping the rest of the team with lifts.
We had successfully signed on a happy bunch of students by mid-afternoon, so Iury and I ‘wobbled’ over to our idyllic Oxford countryside HQ (aka ‘the barn’) in the back of Dominic’s ‘road racing’ Morris Minor…having hot-wired it to get in going. Safely there, we swiftly completed the race preparations as the rest of the team arrived, loaded the Riley racer onto its aged trailer transport, and packed the van with way more than needed before setting off at 7pm – almost as planned!
It was late and dark on Friday night at the barn when we eventually left for Castle Combe… We had aimed to leave at around 3pm but after re-installing the Accu-sump after lunch, the racing Riley would not register any oil pressure.
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.
After leaving the HQ late on Saturday afternoon, the team quickly set up in the paddock and headed off again for dinner at a nearby pub. We then retired to our tents to escape the chilly April night.
We rose early to find bright sunshine and set to work checking the car. After finding no issues, the car was taken to scrutineering and approved for racing on the day. A quick clean was all we had time for before sending the car out for qualifying. The Riley’s times fell throughout the session as the track warmed up, and our racer qualified 6th on the grid and 2nd in Class, auguring well for the race later in the afternoon.