HRDC ‘Allstars’ and ‘Touring Greats’ Races
Mallory Park Racing Circuit – September 26th 2015
OUMF RILEY 1.5 - RACE REPORT
We have received an unprecedented interest and support from new students this year - so much that our signup sheet had gone beyond the number of rows we had printed! So, given the enthusiasm that everyone was showing, we were quite ready to have a large team at the Historic Racing Drivers Club penultimate race at the Mallory Park Racing Circuit. A few were under the weather and many others had unexpected commitments, but nonetheless, after a day of race preparation on Thursday, we left the HQ at 4 p.m. on Friday with more than dozen crew members to support the OUMF Riley 1.5 race car.
We reached Mallory Park at dusk and were welcomed by a patch of green grass and a little lake that stood serenely in the middle of the race track. For a few of us, it was our first race as pit crew, and both excitement and adrenaline were soaring high. We quickly set up our marquee and tools, had dinner and at that point many of us called it a day and retired to catch some sleep before the busy race day to come. However, a few of us whose adrenaline refused to die down chose to go for a track walk. After all, it was the day before full moon and the place was flooded with moonlight!
Saturday was bright and sunny and the weather was perfect for racing. Tom Maitland arrived shortly before the Riley cleared Scrutineering and he and Dom tackled an issue with the valve timing – which had to be fixed in short order as the Allstars qualifying was due to start in an hour. Tom, our venerated engine expert, quickly set to work and resolved the problem. Meanwhile, Tony Hall arrived with his Vauxhall VX4/90 to participate in the Touring Greats event, and so too did John Yea with his A40 that Dom and Jimmy built for him during their placement this year. They both set up camp alongside us. We found out that Ian Mills, Tony’s usual co-driver, was not able to make it to the race, and Tony was a little apprehensive about doing the whole race alone. So, as we were 8th Reserve for the Touring Greats, and it had turned out to be a full grid that day, Ding offered to be his co-driver – a decision we did not know would cost us dearly later.
The Allstars qualifying kick started the race day at 9.30 a.m. The qualifying went smoothly, the freshly installed THINK Automotive Accusump working perfectly - and the Riley looked amazingly quick on the track. Ding set a very good time to qualify 6th on the grid – our highest placing yet in the Allstars. A quick check of the car immediately after qualifying and the Riley was back on track for the Touring Greats practice and qualifying session. It was decided that Ding would do a few rounds of qualifying in the Riley while Tony was in the Vauxhall, and then we would call him and Tony into the pits. Ding would then take over the VX4/90 from Tony to get some practice in it too. Both the Riley and the Vauxhall were performing very well on the track, and after a few laps, we called both the drivers in for the pit stop and carried out our planned exchange. Once the qualifying was completed, we returned to the paddock to carry out the all-important spanner checks on our Riley while grabbing a quick bite of lunch at the same time.
However, Ding was called to the Stewards office, and given the bad news that he should have have signed on separately as the second driver for Tony’s Vauxhall before driving it in practice the qualifying round. Tony had mentioned the change of co driver when he had signed on but not actually mentioned Ding by name. It was an honest oversight with no intent to mislead but the Clerk of the Course took it extremely seriously and would not accept the simple explanation or any mitigating circumstances. After questioning, the stewards took some time to deliberate on the situation and any appropriate punishment, and said the decision would be announced after the Allstars race. We got ready for the race but the outcome of the decision lurked around in our minds like the Grim Reaper! It sure was playing mind games on Ding too! A minor crash saw the safety car being put into action between laps 2 to 4. Ding decided to keep squeaky clean in view of the impending decision, and drove very defensively, so as the race proceeded further, the Riley lost a few places and slipped to 11th position by the end of lap 7. However, it did well to hold that position till the end of the race.
After the race, the decision was announced and a very harsh punishment was levied on us. Ding was given 4 points on his racing license and fined £250. In addition we were not allowed to race again that day. While it did seem a little more than what we deserved, stewards decisions have to be followed… it is all part of the world of motorsports. Sometimes we just have to bite our tongues, take it, and move on. It was an extremely expensive lesson.
However, as racing experience is one of OUMF’s main goals, we turned to helping Tony as his pit support crew and went off to the pit lane for the Touring Greats race in which Dom and Jimmy were also looking after John in the British Motor Heritage A40. From the start, Tony was bettering his lap times on every lap. On lap 25, we called in Tony for the mandatory pit stop. A quick check over and the VX4/90 was cleared to continue the race. However, looking good and with just 2 laps to go, Tony came off at Gerrards – the long first corner – after losing his gears. Nothing severe had happened to him, but without reverse to regain the track, he had to retire from the race. Tony was towed back to the paddock after the race had finished, where the unfortunate John Yea was already loading the A40, as his engine had exploded during the race. This was poor reward for both his efforts on track, and his very generous gift of a set of special gears for us to try in the Riley rally car. Shortly afterwards, Julius presided over the traditional awards ceremony which – unusually! – we did not feature this time, but his amusing delivery had everyone laughing, and wrapped up a great race weekend.
Once again, many thanks to Julius Thurgood for his immense support and providing us with yet another amazing experience. We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tom Maitland for joining us, and to all the sponsors and long-standing supporters of OUMF who made this happen. Although it was a fun weekend, we did come back with a few very important lessons such as the non-signup incident. I have an idea we will definitely make sure that this situation never arises in the future!