Students at a Shropshire university are enjoying life in the fast lane by successfully combining their academic studies with a passion for motorsport.
The students from Harper Adams University, Newport are competing in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship this season and have made a promising start to their campaign.
After finishing third in the Cadet Cup class in the opening two rounds of the championship, the Harper Adams Motorsport team was forced to miss the third round, the Scottish Rally, because of a clash with university exams.
Next weekend, the students head to Belgium for the fourth round in Ypres, aiming to get their Ford Fiesta R2 rally car, which has been loaned by M-Sport, back on the podium.
The car is driven by James McDiramid who has co-driver Max Haines-Messenger alongside him and a team of eight fellow students provide the car servicing and support for each rally.
Whilst M-Sport has supplied the Ford Fiesta, the students have been responsible for stripping down and rebuilding the car ready for McDiramid and Haines-Messenger.
It has been a huge team effort and Shropshire-based Morris Lubricants, one of Europe’s leading oil blenders and marketers, has been there to support the students every step of the way.
The family-owned Shrewsbury company began supporting Harper Adams Motorsport when the team was launched four years ago. Now the team is supported through the Morris Lubricants Racing (MLR) ambassadors programme and the company has been happy to get on board with the exciting venture into the British Rally Championship.
The MLR programme aims to support grass roots British motorsport whilst at the same time promoting the company’s premium quality oils and lubricants.
Gareth Clarke, Harper Adams Motorsport’s sponsorship manager, said: “It has been amazing to have the support of Morris Lubricants. We run the car totally on the company’s quality products.
“When we got the car deal with M-Sport, it was natural to go to Morris Lubricants because of all the support they have given us from the start.”
The students began competing in single events with a Golf Mk2 but made a big step up to the Ford Fiesta R2 with M-Sport for support this year.
“We were given a brand new standard Ford Fiesta straight from the factory and we stripped it down to the shell and rebuilt it,” he explained. “Hockly Motorsport fitted the cage for us, but we built everything else ourselves.
“We finished the car the day before the Border Counties Rally and the paint was touch dry as we made the trip to Scotland. Our aim was to just finish after all the hard work and crossing the finish line was the most important thing. To take a third was better than we could have ever expected.
“We get support from the university because they like the project but we have to arrange the work on the car around our studies. Whilst our club has around 60 members, there are only 10 of us in the BRC team for every rally and everyone is passionate about it.
“Our aim is to make a name for ourselves and finish the championship. It’s a bit daunting to be in the service park with teams like M-Sport and Spencer Sport who are there with their massive lorries and we turn up in our van. But a lot of the bigger teams are recognising us and are supportive.
“We were third in the cadet class after the first two rounds but have slipped down the table because we didn’t compete in Scottish Rally. There’s still everything to play for because teams can miss up to two rounds during the championship.
“Driving the R2 has been a massive learning experience for James but he is definitely getting faster. It has been an amazing experience for the team this season. How often do you get an opportunity to build a brand new R2?
“Hopefully our experience will lead to opportunities for us all to have jobs in motorsport when we leave university.”
McDiramid added: “We were gutted to miss the Scottish Rally but our degrees have to come first. Now our exams are over, it’s going to be tough the next few months because we all have summer jobs all around the UK, from Scotland down to Dover, which will make it difficult to prepare the car at times.
“But we are fully committed to the project and we hope to be at all the remaining rounds this year picking up more strong results.
“The BRC is the perfect platform for us to compete in. What we learn at Harper Adams theoretically can be transferred and applied straight onto the Fiesta which makes it brilliant real life experience for us, especially to compete in the BRC – the pinnacle of UK rallying.”
In addition to the rally car, the Harper Adams University students are also preparing a Tomcat, which should be ready to compete in All Wheel Drive Club events from September. They also hope to have another rally car in action next season.
Andrew Goddard, Morris Lubricants’ managing director, congratulated the students on their excellent start in BRC and said he would be watching their results with interest for the rest of the championship.
“We are keen to support talented British drivers and riders whether they are already established in motorsport or climbing through the ranks,” he added. “We understand how difficult it is to compete in all levels of motorsport without support.
“The MLR programme also provides the company with the perfect platform to promote and demonstrate that our oils and lubricants can cope with the highest demands of motorsport.”
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