Steep learning curve on Sol Rally Barbados 2008

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Steep learning curve on Sol Rally Barbados 2008

Eight students from the Oxford Universities Motorsport Foundation (OUMF) are heading across the Atlantic on Tuesday (May 20) on a Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747 to face the challenge of a lifetime - they will compete in Sol Rally Barbados 2008 (May 31/June 1), the region's biggest annual international motor sport event.

 

Their 1965 Riley 1.5, which has already arrived in the island on a Geest Line freighter, is entered in the two-day event's historic class, in which the opposition includes 1979 World Rally Champion, Sweden's Bjorn Waldegard, and experienced local co-driver Michael Carrington in a Porsche 911. On seeing the entry list, the enthusiastic OUMF founder and Riley driver Ding Boston said: "I just love the historic entry list! We'll have to frame it." The third car in the Group is a 1964 Austin Mini Cooper S, driven by Englishman Steve Wood, with local co-driver Leslie Evanson.

The Riley next to a much newer rally car.

 

The OUMF trip was initiated by respected British freelance journalist Martin Sharp, who has been following motor sport in Barbados for nearly 20 years; he will again be among the European media corps arriving Wednesday, having spent just one night at home on his return from last weekend's latest round of the World Rally Championship in Sardinia.

 

Sharp says: "I've met Ding at classic events in England, and what he's doing without any direct university or government funding is remarkable - I admire him for it. My early days were spent on lathes and milling machines in the Ford Apprentice School workshops - all that stuff gave me a great grounding on what's likely to work, and what obviously won't work, and it has stayed with me.

 

"I realised that, for a few of his students to see what the incredibly-resourceful guys in Barbados can do with metal, machinery and tools, would be worth so much more to them than theoretical training. I'm just glad we've been able to pull it off, thanks to Greg Cozier, Barbados Rally Carnival and the Barbados Rally Club."

 

OUMF is an independent, student-run initiative, providing the encouragement and facility for 'hands-on' engineering experience, something almost completely lacking at either of the city's two universities. The students have restored the Riley at their own expense, and gained many practical skills in the process.

 

Boston, a mature Oxford Brookes electrical engineering student, will have second-year automotive engineering student Jon Puliston (Winchester) as co-driver; the service crew will comprise Lars Brisendal (Norway), Leo Brough (Swindon), Russell Cahill Smith (London), Tom Dawson (Scotland), Joe Duffy (Dubai) and the team's sole female crew member, Hannah Byrd from Guildford.

 

Boston said: "Industry recognises OUMF as one of the few facilities where top undergraduates can bolster their theoretical learning by gaining practical 'hands-on' engineering skills. The opportunity to go to Barbados is the most exciting we have been offered, and I believe will help secure the future of the Foundation - most important, though, it will provide on-going practical training for members of OUMF."

 

The Riley was found on e-Bay in 2004 - an abandoned wreck in a Scottish field - and rebuilt as a practical student project in a cowshed in Oxford. Since then, it has had five rally outings, but Sol Rally Barbados will be its greatest test . . . not to mention the small matter of taking Ding Boston on former World Rally Champion Waldegard!

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