Ooomph or oumf?
As any motorsport aficionado will tell you, scuderia (as in Scuderia Ferrari) means stable in Italian. In Ferrari’s case the connection between stables and thoroughbred prancing horses requires little further explanation to join the dots…
Here in the UK, whilst the word stable may sound rather less romantic by comparison, it’s equally true that here too farm buildings are often home to something of a more exotic nature.
Drive down a track in the countryside just outside Oxford, and you’ll find a group of young automotive engineering students whose need for speed manifests itself in the form of cars exhumed from fields, or retrieved from owners who have lost the will to fettle their charges any longer. Cars that they don’t just restore to full health, but rude health. Racing cars for road and track.
“…they have achieved that recognition without any formal support or funding”
In the ten years since being established the Oxford Universities Motorsport Foundation (or OUMPF as they are more evocatively known) have become the top Historic Racing and Rallying student team in the UK. And perhaps more remarkable still is that they have achieved that recognition without any formal support or funding.
Led by their mentor Ding Boston, this informal group of thirty to forty hands on students, spend their free hours creating, tending and racing classic race cars that have been catching the eye of enthusiasts not only in the UK, but further afield too.
For instance in Belgium, the cars of OUMF are welcomed with open arms by the organisers of the the Ypres Historic Rally. And such is their growing reputation that invitations come from even further afield such as the Caribbean where last year they raced in the the Barbados Historic Rally.
“…fit only for scrap after a high speed encounter with a Llama”
Currently nestled in the ‘scuderia’ are two elderly Rileys and two Alfas, one of which was a competitor on the 2001 Inca Trail Rally. Found in a farmyard, about to be crushed having covered over 15,000 miles in what many still regard as one of the toughest rally’s ever staged, the owners believed the Alfa’s shell to be fit only for scrap after a high speed encounter with a Llama. Enter the endless enthusiasm of OUMF.
Four years later, phoenix like, the Inca Alfa rose from the ashes and since then has gone from strength to strength. Not content with one resurrection special, the Foundation then started work on a Riley 1.5 that had festered in a Scottish field for nine years. Having been rescued the rejuvenated, the Riley has hit the historic rally circuit with no small degree of success.
Building on the experience gained from the first Riley restoration, a full race Riley was the next project. Prepared to exacting historic racing standards, it is campaigned at many of the major race meetings. Already showing a remarkable turn of speed, the car is the focus of much development by the students who are looking to extract every last bit of oooomph out of this immaculate racer.
But development programmes cost money and that is something that OUMF has a distinct lack of. In fact it is non existent as it has been from day one, the foundation only surviving on its own wits and the generosity of a host a sponsors who provide components and the like.
Maybe as the alumni of OUMF find their way within the world of automotive manufacturing or motorsport, remembering those days in the barn, skinning knuckles, pondering the importance of the three remaining washers left over after yet another rebuild, they will direct their employer’s attention to the needs of the foundation.
As an organisation capable of giving engineering students the all important, hands on, practical experience their current courses can’t provide, we can’t help thinking that OUMF deserves greater recognition and more sustained support to continue fueling the passion amongst the budding Adrian Newey’s of tomorrow. Makes sense doesn’t it?