Our second race of the season was the HRDC ‘Allstars’ race, held at the same Silverstone National Circuit where we had a head gasket failure in practice two weeks ago. The intervening time had been spent at the HQ, addressing the problems we had last time out, and preparing the car for the Allstars race. The head was removed again and new head bolts, kindly donated by ARP Bolts, were fitted. Other changes included a new electric fan regulator from Revotec, new exhaust bracketry and the removal of the bumpers to make our car look more like the Riley 1.5 raced by Alan Hutcheson in period.
After Saturday’s prep, packing and barbeque at the HQ, Sunday began with the team meeting at 7am, ready to depart for Silverstone. With Jamie Higgins very kindly driving half the team there (after a serious night and no sleep), on arrival at the circuit, we unpacked the van, set up our pit area smack in the middle of the HRDC paddock, and started the car to check everything over before heading to Scrutineering. Tom Maitland and Kalman Strohmayer noticed when the car was started that the engine wasn’t firing on all cylinders, and number three seemed the major culprit. A change of spark plug, HT lead and distributor cap eventually led to the diagnosis of a bent needle in one of the carburettors, which Graham from CCK and then Tom straightened out as best they could, checking it by rolling it on a flat surface of Grahams toolbox! Dom Norman and Kei Takemura-James swapped the front and rear tyres to equalise wear from the last race and the car went to Scrutineering, which it passed without a single issue.
Ding managed to get out for the last nine laps of practice and we qualified 33rd out of 36 cars – many of which, like Aston Martin Project 214, and Bill Shepherd’s enormous Ford Galaxie, were extremely quick. However, when he came back he told us he wasn’t happy with the brakes so Ahron Bequart, Theo Ensbury and Tom adjusted and bled them to try and solve the issue. Meanwhile, Andy Parsons and Kalman tightened all of the roll cage bolts to address a loud bang/noise that Ding had heard in practice. A quick trip around the paddock confirmed that everything was improved.
Dom, Andy and Kei washed and polished the whole car and did a full spanner check underneath to get it ready to race. Other than that, the list of work to be done was much shorter than the first race of the season so we were able to walk around the paddock, talk to other competitors and have a look at the cars we’d be up against. This included a thorough examination of the Bonham’s Riley 1.5 we hope to be competing against with our new racing Riley.
As the race approached, we started the car to get it up to temperature and do a final check to make sure everything was working. Ding went to the collection area and the rest of the team went to the pit wall for the race start. All of the cars got away without incident and Ding settled into his usual rhythm while we watched the action from the pits. Silverstone is well known for having wildlife in and around the track, and a local hare decided that it wanted to get a bit closer to the action. A little to close in fact, as shown by the blood and hair we found on the side of the car when it came back in...
Ding spent the whole race chasing down the Triumph Vitesse that was heading our class. On lap 15, he finally caught the Vitesse and passed it going into Beckets, thereby becoming Class leader! Unfortunately, on accelerating down the following straight, he noticed that the car was suddenly sluggish, accompanied by a high pitched tinkling sound – and immediately dipped the clutch, hit the main isolator switch, coasted down the straight and turned off the track at the BRDC stand. All gauges read normal, but in order to avoid making the problem any worse, he left the car where it was, and returned to the paddock. When we noticed that the car had stopped coming round, we returned to our pit too and Ding explained what had happened.
After collecting the car and pushing it back, we quickly identified a missing pin from the bonnet hinge as one possible source of the rattling noise. The lack of power, however, seemed a bit more serious. A compression test revealed that we had virtually no compression in cylinders 3 and 4, but as there was no oil in the water, or vici versa, we suspected that the fire ring on the head gasket had gone between the two cylinders. As this is the same area the head gasket blew at the last race, we were worried that the head might be warped - so this would need very close inspection in the next few days to find the problem and fix it so the car is bullet-proof for the next big HRDC race at Oulton Park on May 11th.
Despite being denied what might have been our first class win, the whole team had a brilliant day out and would like to thank Julius Thurgood for allowing us to race in his great series and gain such excellent experience - as well as a seemingly endless list of other sponsors who made the day possible.
So we head to Oulton Park in just over two weeks time with high hopes, as it’s a track which should suit the OUMF Riley well - provided of course that we can get the head gasket issue solved in time!