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Students Head For Historic Encounter
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 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!

Greater support for marshals, thanks to Sol and the Barbados Rally Club

The willingness of volunteers to give freely of their time and energies in support of Sol Rally Barbados 2008 was recognised on Thursday evening (May 15) during the final Marshals Briefing in advance of this year's event, as samples of the equipment that will be distributed to all marshals over rally weekend were handed over to the Stage Commanders.

Working together, the sponsors and the organising Club have sourced both safety items - safety scissors, clearly-marked bright shirts and tabards and whistles - and equipment to made the two long days in the hot sun more comfortable to bear, including coolers, caps and umbrellas. In addition, the Club has invested in 12 tents, which will be stationed at stage starts and finishes, to protect not only the marshals and timing crews, but also their valuable equipment. Come rally weekend, the marshals will also receive a number of products from event marketing partner B&B Distribution to keep them cool and refreshed.

Sol's Group Marketing and Communications Manager Aymara Cummins said: "The marshals and other volunteers are the backbone of any big motor sport event like this. Sol is very pleased to be able to make a direct contribution to providing for them in ways that will help them work more efficiently and in greater safety but, just as important, in more comfort."

BRC Chairman Mark Hamilton added: "Our marshals who work the all- day stages will be at their posts for anything up to 12 hours, so it is only right that we should do our best to provide for them. The long-term commitment from Sol has given the Club a chance to invest in some capital equipment, which we can build on in years to come."