OUMF’s first race of the 2015 season was the HRDC Easter weekend races on the International Circuit at Silverstone. Tom and Bruce Maitland, Dom Norman, Andy Parsons, Ahron Becquart, Ding and Jimmy Allen packed and loaded at the HQ before the team left on the Friday evening and arrived at the track in time to find an unoccupied pit garage in the new Wing pits - which was a great relief given the heavy rain! We immediately unloaded, set up the pit with all our kit, tools, and sponsors banners - and our flashy new NGK chairs! - and got the Riley ready to run for first thing in the morning. In the course of this, a fuel leak was discovered from the Riley’s fuel tank, but this was quickly sorted in time for the team to head off for supper at the famous Green Man pub nearby with fellow racer Tony Hall - who very kindly bought us all drinks!
After a night camping in the grand surroundings of our Formula 1 pit garage, the team woke to bright dry weather, and were up early to head straight for the scrutineering bay. With no issues found, the car was taken back to the pits and given its final checks before the first qualifying session of the day. The track was still damp and greasy, and this led to ‘offs’ by other cars and a red flag period which hampered progress early on. However, the Riley qualified 11th for the Touring Greats race, just behind the Bonhams Riley 1.5 of John Polson which is now in Class B for bigger engined cars this year. Sadly, Tony Hall hadn’t been so lucky and drove back into the pits with a problem with his Vauxhall VX490. To his disappointment, this was quickly diagnosed as a cracked cylinder head, and he had to withdraw from further track action.
Soon afterwards, we were on a rapidly drying track again for the HRDC ‘Allstars’ qualifying session – up against Cobra’s, lightweight E types, TVR’s, Mustangs and other thundering American V8 muscle cars. Nevertheless, with the wider Dunlop 5.50 tyres (courtesy of Paul Phillips) and neatly modified Tillett seat making a very noticeable difference, the OUMF Riley set a respectable time to secure 18th place on the grid for the race proper.
During this pre-race build up we were delighted to welcome a crowd of OUMF supporters to our pit who offered help and advice - and cake! As always the large Phillips Tyres banner we had placed on the wall of the pit – of the buxom girl changing a wheel – held the admiring gaze of many…
Soon it was time for the first race – the Touring Greats – and a good start saw Ding up to 5th place overall and 2nd in class before the grid reached the first corner. Sadly this advantage was short lived - as a Ford Zephyr rolled four times on the final corner into the pit straight and brought out the safety car for several frustrating laps. However the team had a good obligatory pit stop and maintained our strong position at the front of the field as the Riley stayed in a tight battle for 2nd in class for a large part of the race. A flash from the oil pressure warning light brought Ding into the pits for a brief check, but as the oil pressure gauge was reading normal, we decided to believe that and to continue with the race. In spite of the extra pit stop, the Riley hung on to 3rd in class and finished the race in 6th place overall – our best ever result in the HRDC!
The ‘Allstars’ race started just 35 minutes after the end of the ‘Touring Greats’ race so there was little time to give the car anything other than a quick check over and a top up with fuel before sending it out to do battle again. After another fine start in which the Riley got the jump on two or three cars off the grid, an exciting race developed which saw the Riley’s times falling while it climbed up the order throughout the 30 minutes session to finish 12th overall and 2nd in class. As the car came back into the pits it was clear that the race hadn’t been without incident. The OUMF racer had taken a Ford Falcon to the left hand door and rear wheel arch. The well known driver – Julian Balme – apologised afterwards, and the damage could have been much worse; it will be easily repaired before the next meeting. However, the oil pressure had also continued to drop worryingly low at moments on the final string of corners, and this will need thorough investigation before the next race on the full Grand Prix track at Silverstone in three weeks time.
All in all, with another two trophies in the bag on our first races of the season, it was a fantastic day out, and it was great to see so many of our supporters and previous OUMF member Rob Mason there to cheer us on. We would like to thank Phillips Tyres, NGK Spark Plugs, Stuart Talbot, Tillett, Thermex, and all our many supporters and sponsors for enabling OUMF to become the most successful student team in historic racing!