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hrdc_donnington_1_2013_dings_edit

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									                 OUMF and the Riley at HRDC Donington Park - 2/6/2013
After the heartache of coming so close to a fantastic result and a Class win at Silverstone in April’s Historic
Racing Driver’s Club ‘All Stars’ event, it was a huge disappointment that we had to withdraw from the next
round at Oulton Park. The damage incurred as a result of the blown head gasket which caused our untimely
demise was sufficient to require the head to be skimmed and the block to be checked to ensure a flat and
correct mating surface – as the distance between combustion chambers was discovered to be just 2.7
millimetres! Once more we are very thankful to our supporters coming to our aid, in particular Dave Knight
of Knight Engine Services and Dave Crisell of All-Stage Cylinder heads who used their considerable skills to
rework the cylinder head to a capable state.

With the overworked head having a very high compression ratio, the decision was taken to switch from a
normal gasket to a special, thicker gasket from America – to lower the compression and counter the
dangerous pre-detonation we have been experiencing. Unfortunately, this did not arrive on time as promised,
and two days before the race at Donington we were forced to make the decision to attempt to race with a
normal gasket. Utilising Tom Maitland’s considerable talent to fit the gasket as precisely as humanly possible,
and running Sunoco’s 105 high octane fuel mixture, we hoped it would all hang together – and if it did not,
then at least we hoped that damage to the engine would be minimal.

As the car preparations continued, an alarming problem arose; there was an ominous ‘clunk’ coming from the
right hand side of the car under braking. Most of the Friday afternoon before the race was spent testing the
car’s brakes on the driveway to the OUMF HQ, but frustratingly, the noise was not occurring consistently or
in any repeatable way. After considering all possible scenarios with the braking system, our attentions turned
to the suspension dynamics under braking, remembering an issue we had encountered with the Inca Alfa
Romeo in Barbados the previous year. There, a suspension arm was found to be making contact with the
body under braking. A detailed inspection of the front suspension highlighted a potential problem; the lever
arm shock absorbers were leaking, and, more worrying, depositing swarf onto the chassis legs. It appeared
there was movement in the shaft bushes and the play indicated they might be prematurely worn. As the lever
arm dampers also constitute the top upright mounting points, we had to investigate further. As Tom and
Theo Ensbury set about dismantling the front suspension to access the shock absorbers, Andy Parsons and
Jack Swarbrigg began to prepare potential replacements should they be needed.

It was quickly found that the performance of the shocks was not compromised; this was a big relief, as
replacing them would have taken several hours and it was already getting late - with a 6am start planned for
race day. However, as looked for more clues about the knocking, Tom’s eagle eyes spotted that the right side
bottom trunnion was missing two washers which locate the bushes – and thought that this might provide
enough play to cause the noise. Washers replaced, the car was reassembled and loaded for transit. Testing
would have to wait until tomorrow. While loading the car onto the trailer, another fault was discovered with
the engine kill switch which wasn’t working properly. Kalman Strohmayer set to work immediately, but in the
late evening darkness the chance of discovering the wiring fault was low. Another item to add to the pre-
scrutineering check list in the morning….

For this HRDC round we had a good team, so we were confident we could remedying any outstanding faults
in time for Qualifying and the race. The weather was warm and sunny, but thankfully not oppressively hot.
We arrived in good time, and with the team dressed in period white overalls, we set to work as soon as the pit
was erected while Ding went to Sign On. Theo – who struggles with electrics – was very impressed with
Kalman’s ability when he fixed the kill switch issue in plenty of time for Scrutineering. We attached the
transponder and spanner-checked the rest of the car, while Tom swapped one of the exhaust clamps for a
more suitable replacement, and Jack Swarbrigg, Andy Parsons, Dom Norman, and Jack Hordley gave the
exterior of the car a full clean, polish and inspection. All items ticked off, the team headed to Scrutineering.
 Quick thinking Jack Swarbrigg correctly identified the Scrutineer who had given us such a hard time at
Silverstone a couple of months back - and skillfully directed the Riley into different queue to avoid him!
There was a brief drama when the car wouldn’t start and had to be pushed out of line, but that, sealing a
small hole in the rear bulkhead with some tape, and lock wiring the fuel filler cap - and it was passed.

With Scrutineering out of the way, we prepared the car for qualifying. Tyre pressures were set at 26 PSI (as
the 24 PSI we tried here last year was thought to be a little too low), and we added 20 litres of Sunoco 105
octane racing fuel to help deter any detonation issues. All the screens were rigorously cleaned and the car
warmed up. A quick check to see if we had remedied the knock discovered yesterday revealed another issue;
the rear brakes were prone to locking on with just minimal pedal pressure. With little time before we were
due on track to qualify, Tom moved the bias forward as much as possible to reduce lock up on track.

Another unnerving session beckoned for Ding, something I think he is getting used to these days! The
qualifying session seemed to pass uneventfully from the pit wall apart from seeing him and the pack having to
take evasive action on the exit of Redgate as a car at the head of the train span, sending cars darting around in
all directions in another typically fraught qualifying session. Understandable with 37 cars jostling for clean air!
With Ding getting down to a low 1:45 lap time. This was very impressive, as it was only a shade over 3
seconds off his best from last year –when on a brand new set of tyres and with a healthier car. It was even
more impressive when he reported sliding down the super quick Craner Curves on a Jaguar Mark II’s oil and
bottom end bearing remnants....

The brakes proved to be an issue during Qualifying as well, leading to more head scratching in the pits
afterwards. Tom and Kalman set to work trying to find the issue, whilst Theo checked the rear end and
engine bay, and Jack Swarbrigg checked the front corners. The other lads gave the exterior a good look over
and tried to absorb some of Kalman’s and Tom’s wisdom as the pair adjusted the drum brakes.

It seemed the rear brake slave cylinders were not aligned correctly and might be sticking. This was suspected
to be due to a bent back plate - something which would be confirmed during a thorough post-race inspection
of the brakes on Sunday morning. The slave cylinders were greased on their slots in an attempt to prevent
then sticking and the shoes once more re-adjusted.

When the car was prepared, we took a good look around the other cars in the paddock. Having experienced a
series of major maladies during the opening rounds of the season, we sympathised with some of our
competitors who were undertaking major repairs, and were not sure if they would make it out for the race –
and so allow us, as 3rd reserve, a chance to race! All part of racing – though one would prefer not to benefit
from someone else’s misfortune, as they have worked as hard as you have to get here.

In the lead up to the race there were discussions about tyres, and a period of pit stop practice for the first
time this season to get the process as fast and smooth as possible, and avoid panic and confusion under
crowded race conditions in the pit lane. The car was then warmed up as thoroughly as usual, and departed for
the collection area with Tom as the riding mechanic, while the rest of the team headed for the pitlane.

As the previous race drew to a close, we were still not sure whether we would race, as we had been designated
the first reserve car prior to the meeting. We would know if Ding was pitted at the end of the formation lap.

Tom is not a man of many words but he used two very choice ones on his return from the collection area to
convey the situation surrounding the brakes as Ding had driven to the collection area. They were very abrupt
– which Tom had done his best to improve, but we expected Ding to pit and retire after the green flag lap
and before taking the start.

Except this didn’t happen.
With such a large grid there was a little confusion surrounding the dummy grid and start procedures, and
Ding wound up lining up – as first reserve - at the back of the grid. Unhappy about the uber-sensitive brakes,
Ding cautiously drove the formation lap without using them, and then finding it was quite driveable to do so,
he elected to continue – as, much to everyone’s surprise, no one beckoned the reserve Riley into the pits. So,
the race was on - and we dashed to the pitwall!

At this point, not knowing what the state of the car was, we kept a very close eye on it as it sped by. He
continued to circulate a little off his normal pace, although he was in a pack of cars vying for position. We
were unaware of the drama unfolding in the cockpit.

Everything settled down and leaders began to lap the backmarkers as the 45 minute race approached the ‘pit
stop window’. Ding moved steadily up the field as attrition set in, and by one third distance, he was already
28th - having started 37th and last. As the pit lane opened for stops/driver changes, the Safety Car was
suddenly deployed, as a broken car needed to be removed from the final chicane. It was difficult to see
exactly what had happened from the pit wall, but a retrieval vehicle soon had the burgundy Jaguar off the
track and away from danger.

Theo had the pitboard, so when the Safety Car period began, he asked a nearby marshal what the SC
procedure was re pit stops. Would the pits be closed? Would they remain open for the duration? Would the
cars drive to a delta time, or would they be picked up by the pace car? The situation was unpredictable as at
HRDC Donington last year, the Safety Car came out and lapped at racing speed! At the end of pit lane the
green light was on…then it wasn’t… then the red came on. With a car waiting to leave and being held at pit
exit, Theo left Ding out for another lap to avoid the possibility of the Riley being similarly held up, but as
luck would have it the pit lane opened again almost immediately and over half the field had already pitted by
the time he came in – so no free pit stop this time! (Note…must get F1 telemetry in Riley…)

Anyway he pitted at the end of the yellow flag period, having had to follow the Safety Car for a lap, with the
benefit that the pit lane was quieter - which was handy given Ding revealed (as he came to a gentle stop on
the handbrake) that he was driving without touching the brake pedal! He had figured it was better, safer and
an excellent exercise in precision driving to drive as if there were no brakes, rather than with the uncertainty
of how they might perform – or over perform - if they were used. While they were there if he really needed
them, he hadn’t hit brake at all during the race so far.

The team’s fast stop meant we gained a bit of time in all the confusion, we found we had had picked up a
couple more places as some had waited until after the yellow flags withdrew to pit, and had lost time behind
the Safety Car. Now in 25th, the Riley was just a couple of seconds behind the next car, and the engine was
holding together – but we made sure to give the car a good look over every time it went past.

The laps ticked away and the Riley settled down to a remarkable race pace - a few tenths quicker than its best
qualifying time! It was truly a remarkable performance. The tension built in everyone as the race wore on, and
we dared to hope we would actually finish! When our Riley took the chequered flag on the line to finish in
23rd place, having started bang last in 37th, racing never felt so good!

After all the team’s trials and tribulations, to finish under those circumstances of all was a phenomenal
achievement – and one that we hope will propel us into the second half of the season with gusto.

The race was trademark OUMF; over-achieving with a simple refusal to capitulate, even when the odds were
stacked against us. It’s a fair bet we will need all that fighting spirit and more over the next few hectic
weeks...on the Abingdon Stage Rally, the FIA Ypres Historic Rally and the next HRDC epic at Brands Hatch
for the Aston Martin Centenary - on the Grand Prix circuit!
A huge thank you is due to Julius Thurgood - and all our supporters and sponsors - for an epic motor racing
experience (and a delicious cake too, courtesy of Robin Maitland!).

We could not have been there without your help.



(And well done to Theo Ensbury for an excellent and very prompt report)

								
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