At around 1am on Saturday morning - less than two hours after finishing the Ist OUMFMC 12 Car Rally - the OUMF team arrived at a wet Silverstone, for the support race of the Britcar 24 hours– and we were very quickly asleep!
As morning broke we were up and delighted to find that the rain had just cleared as we erected the OUMF marquee and laid out our pit area. We got the Riley started in order to take it to scrutineering, but it rapidly became apparent that the alternator wasn’t charging as it should. Never the less, the SuperB battery carried the car until we got to the collecting area for qualifying, but once there it ran out of power, and we had to ratchet strap a trusty Powervamp jump pack into the car to get it through qualifying.
After practice, we managed to borrow a plug socket to charge the battery, for 3 hours and entered the race with only the battery, and no jump pack. The radiator fan was unplugged to try and conserve the battery as long as possible, although I think most weren’t expecting the Riley to finish the race without further electrical incident.
As the race got under way, we were a solid second in class, behind an Alfa Romeo that we never thought we could catch and pass. A safety car compressed the pack again, and brought the OUMF Riley right up behind the Alfa. After the safety car went in, we could see from the pit wall that the Riley was closing the gap to the Alfa, and the third lap from the end of the race, we were only 0.6 seconds behind it. As the Riley started its last lap, the gap had increased to 1.0 seconds, and we were expecting another impressive 2nd in class performance. However, with all eyes on the last corner of the circuit, we were delighted to see the Riley appear before the Alfa - to take OUMF’s first ever Class win in the HRDC! There was some confusion as to whether the place was confirmed, but after looking at the live timing screens in the Britcar pit garages, it was confirmed, and we knew the Riley had indeed won.
We returned to the paddock to await the arrival of the victorious Riley, but after waiting about 15 minutes, we started to worry that the Riley had run into trouble. A search party found it in the Scrutineering ‘parc ferme’ area - where it had finally run out of electrics as the car came off the track. We all pushed it back to the paddock, where Ding explained that he had turned it off to prevent overheating while it was stationary in the queue returning to the paddock, but the battery did not have enough power left after the race to start the car again. We also heard that the Alfa, pushing hard, had slid wide in a corner on the last lap, allowing the Riley to make the vital overtake.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable and instructive race meeting, not only seeing the many different cars that were at the event and talking to crews and drivers, but of course taking our first win, and racing on the Silverstone GP circuit for the first time. The whole team is very grateful to Julius Thurgood for giving us another of these superb experiences, but to Tom Maitland, John Yea at British Motor Heritage, Ralph Saunders at Pitstop, Phillips Tyres of Oxford, Powerlite, Tony Hall, Dave Knight Engine Services, Dave Crisell, THINK Automotive, and the army of loyal OUMF supporters who made it all possible.