Immediately on arriving back from a successful week in Belgium competing with the Inca Alfa in the Ypres Rally, the OUMF team set to work on the Riley 1.5 racer in preparation for its next event at Oulton Park the following weekend. Sadly - and very unexpectedly given its apparent good health after HRDC Brands Hatch in June - further problems were discovered with the engine at the Monday evening practical session. Despite many different ideas being thrown around, it was clear that the Riley would not be able to race at the weekend and, regrettably, we had to inform Julius that we must withdraw the Riley from the races.
Despite the very disappointing issues with the car, the level of enthusiasm and commitment to the HRDC is such that many OUMF members were still keen to make the trip up to Oulton Park. An overnight stay was arranged at the Maitland HQ in Shropshire, with fantastic hospitality provided for the whole team on Friday evening. There was even a tour of the ever expanding ‘Maitland Engineering’ workshop, and inspection of the current ‘works in progress’ – Tom’s 1930 Ford Model A-engined Amilcar, and his brother Bruce’s potential HRDC A35 racer! Despite an eventful journey up there for a couple of members, a great night was had by all.
Bon viveur Robin Maitland ensured that a breakfast feast greeted the whole team when they woke at 6.30am, which set up everyone perfectly for the day. Soon afterwards everyone was back on the road and heading off in the sunshine for OUMF’s first visit to Oulton Park circuit.
The highlight of the paddock was without doubt the beautiful new British Motor Heritage Austin A40, built by OUMF members Dom Norman and Jimmy Allen over the course of the past year for their Industrial Placement. After taking time to admire the A40, attention was redirected to Tony Hall’s Vauxhall VX490. Following our disappointment with our Riley, Tony had kindly invited the OUMF team to join him and help look after his car for the day - and also invited Ding to share the driving with him in the race too.
After flying through Scrutineering, it was time to head out on to the track for practice/qualifying. Tony put in a few laps to get a feel for the track before handing the car over to Ding for the rest of the session so he too could get a measure of this unfamiliar track, and get used to the Vauxhall and its equally alien dog gearbox.
Dom and Jimmy were delighted to see John Yea in the BMH A40 qualify in 11th on the grid, in what was the car’s first ever competitive track session, while Ding and Tony put the Vauxhall 19th on the grid.
In the long break that followed before the Touring Greats race, some suspension and tyre pressure changes were made to improve the handling of the VX490, and new front brake pads were fitted. The team also had a chance to walk around the paddock and talk to our competitors and supporters – and enjoy the tub of delicious chocolate brownies made for us by Robin and Debs Maitland.
Come the race, Tony Hall chose to do the first stint and after a good start he did a great job of moving up the field in the first ten laps, before coming in for the mandatory pit stop to change drivers. Ding, who was surprised to find afterwards that he was up to 10 seconds a lap faster, made up more places in the final laps of the race, but sadly the Vauxhall wasn’t capable of catching John Yea’s A40, which finished in an incredible 9th place in its first ever race! In the final stages, a board was held out from the pit wall indicating a ‘drive through penalty’ for car number 94. When it was still there after 3 laps, Ding - only able to read the ‘4’ of the two numbers on the Vauxhall’s bonnet, and fearing disqualification if it was for him and he ignored it - came in to the pits…only to be told he was actually 54…and shot out again! This dropped him down to 20th overall, but, still smarting from his error, he held on to 2nd in Class at the chequered flag - vowing that if he was invited to drive someone else’s car again, he would make good note of the car’s race number beforehand!
A great day, in lovely summer weather, was topped off at the prize giving where Tony Hall not only received his 2nd place trophy, but a coveted Christopher Ward HRDC watch as the ‘Driver of the Day’ award too. Dom and Jimmy were also delighted to receive the ‘Best Presented Car’ award, which was justly deserved for their stunning work on the little Austin A40.
All in all, it was very different and hugely enjoyable weekend, and while it was sad that the Riley couldn’t be there, the OUMF team’s appearance in the paddock to support the HRDC, Tony Hall, and Dom and Jimmy with John Yea’s A40 showed great commitment and undoubtedly gained the team further respect from the rest of the historic field. We all owe great gratitude to the Maitland family for their kindness and hospitality, Tony Hall for his fun and encouragement, and of course Julius Thurgood, along with John Yea, Phillips Tyres, THINK Automotive and all our sponsors for their unwavering and generous support for the OUMF team and its young bloods – and the healthy future of historic motorsport engineering.
I know the OUMF team is glad to have a pause in events in order to repair and prepare the Riley - before the next exciting HRDC races at Mallory Park in September!