Caterham Academy 2017 Season Review

As the 2018 Roadsport season is fast approaching I thought it was about time to put into words my first year of motor racing in 2017.

Congratulations to all the drivers that took part it was at lot of fun racing you. Everyone that went home with silverware well done. But don’t get too used to it the rest of us will be after some in Roadsport!

Caterham Academy 2017 - Leading at Silverstone

I started my racing life in the Green Group which i’m sure was full of the competitive people which meant the competition was fierce. (I’m sure every group says that). It did seem to be less crashy than the White Group so I do take that as a blessing!

For a first year in motorsport I did pretty well. Over the year I was always part of the front pack fighting for podiums and finished 5th out of 27 in the championship. Along the way I started on the front row 3 times including a pole. Broke a lap record at Silverstone and set the fastest lap in the race a few times, lead races, etc. Unfortunately I made a few mistakes or at least more than my fellow racers and only walked away with a single podium 3rd place at Donington. I can think of plenty of ‘racing driver excuses’ as to where I went wrong which I’ll not bore you with. Bottom line is I made some costly mistakes (in time not damage) and will try to make less of them in Roadsport. Still not a bad start in my first year of motorsport.

Caterham Academy 2017 - In the pack at Silvestone

I have to say thanks to a few people this year. My parents for following me around to all the circuits. Family and friends that came alone to watch. My race coach Callum Macleod who really helped me get more out of myself and the car. Caterham Motorsport team for putting on such a great championship and fixing our cars when we accidentally bend bits at race weekends. DPR Motorsport for working on the car between racing when I couldn’t. Jon @ Snappy Racers for some awesome photography. Wow that is a longer list than I thought.

Oh not to forget (as if I ever could) my fellow racers. You guys have been the best and I can’t wait for Roadsport to start when we can all go wheel to wheel again.

Caterham Academy Silverstone Trophy race – 4th

The second race of the weekend was a chance to see who really is the best in the Academy as it was a non championship race with both groups mixed. Due to it being oversubscribed the quali/race was replaced with two races.

The format was odd numbers in one race, even numbers in the other. I finished 5th in the championship so started in 5th place with both championship winners and in the middle of a fast group of drivers. All I needed was a good start. Surely after 5 races I would be 6th time lucky right… I consider I was lucky that no one hit me from behind as I dropped from 5th to 12th. I enjoy a bit of a fight but seriously I have to stop doing this to myself.

Since everyone had done a race the day before everyone was really on the ball and the whole race was another brilliant scrap. It was a lot of fun going wheel to wheel with some of the white group for a change who I had never raced against. Managed to get back into the lead at one point and narrowly missed out on 3rd place to Andy.
Accidentally hit Tom at one point due to a misunderstanding over lines which was totally my fault. I shouldn’t have assumed his line would have been the same as James was in the same situation the race before. Really happy that neither of us were seriously damaged and Tom went on to win and beat both champions!

Managed to claim the fastest lap for my third race in a row but due to the rain a little slower than the new record I set on Saturday.

Caterham Academy Silverstone – 7th place

Silverstone was a special weekend for several reasons:

  • It’s the last championship round of the year
  • It’s the last I will get to race some people who will not be moving to Roadsport next year. I will miss you guys!
  •  There is an extra non championship race where the two Academy groups race together for the first time to see who is really the fastest.

To keep the race reports short I’ll split them up then add a summary once I’ve collected my thoughts on an amazing year.

Saturday morning was quali and I managed to get P2 alongside James who was on pole. Really happy to get my 3rd front row start in a row. The front five was the usual crowd so it was going to be another exciting race. I have had a serious problem with my starts and all I wanted to do was get a decent one this time.

The red lights went out and I leapt forward and nailed my best launch. In my excitement I then mistimed the clutch missing 2nd gear and dropped to 5th. Four minutes later I managed to pull possible my best move of the year into the chicane as we went four abreast into the Club braking zone, 4th to 1st in one move! Found myself leading a race for the first time until the Hanger Straight where I was a sitting duck and back to 4th. This carried on for another five minutes until Graham and I were battling over 2nd and in hindsight either of us should have given way and we didn’t and both spun out without hitting each other or anyone else lucky. From 2nd to 11th in one move! Looking back it was a silly situation but on the video I can’t see any reason why the line didn’t work that time. Oh well that is racing.

Graham and I both rejoined the track with five minutes to go and started chasing down the pack. On the way to claiming 6th place I managed to set the fastest lap of the race and a new lap record by 0.4 seconds.

Obviously annoyed with myself for throwing away a likely podium again but getting a new lap record made me feel a little better about it. Also getting away with a massive spin and not damaging anyones car is a big thing to be happy about!

More to follow on the other race.

Caterham Academy Rockingham – 4th place

Rockingham was another exciting weekend at the front of the pack. Where I quali 2nd and finished 4th and got the fastest lap of the race.

Firstly congratulations to Dan for claiming the championship before the final round. I think I still have a possibility of claiming anywhere between 2nd and 5th depending on how the final race at Silverstone pans out.

 

Quali was late on Saturday and it was very wet. The fast 5 decided to create a quali queue early so we could get ahead of the main pack. I was first out and promptly had a ‘moment’ on the first corner of the out lap. The next 15mins was an absolute blast and at times felt more like a drifting competition. I already assumed that in the wet Dan is untouchable so 2nd would be the best I would manage. After a trip down the escape road and having to rejoin the track I still managed to catch up with the rest of the fast guys so I was pretty confident I would be in the top 3. Turns out I got 2nd by a safe margin. Putting me alongside Dan on the front row.

 

The sun was shining on race day and I got my customary rubbish start and was overly cautious into the first corner. Which dropped me down to 5th and trying desperately to get into 4th so I could charge after the front 3 before they got away. After a couple of laps I was clear of Paul and spend the next couple of laps in clear air chasing a podium setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Graham and I then had another insanely close scrap where eventually I got into 3rd only to miss a gear and ultimately lose 3rd on the last lap.

 

So again I wasn’t on the podium but no point moping about it. Since if I had started better and not missed a gear I would have had a far easier time of it.

Next and final round is at Silverstone 14th October.

#CaterhamFamily

Photos courtesy of Jon @ SnappyRacers.com

Snetterton outtakes

During a race weekend the test days are often more fun than the race itself as everyone works out what we can get away with on track.
Far too many great battles and near misses to sort through but here are a few of the more ‘interesting’ moments.

I think we had a record few red flags this weekend so we must all be getting better at avoiding walls and each other.

Caterham Academy Snetterton – 7th place

After the 3rd place at the last round I went into the Snetterton race weekend with high hopes for another podium.

Despite ending up 7th I had my best weekend from a fun point of view. Having started on pole, spun to last and then passed 2/3rds of the field.

The weekend started with two days of testing. The first day was a track day spent with Callum helping my improve on a couple of corners I was losing time on. By Friday morning I was really starting to get quicker but still suffering with a long brake pedal and sliding around a lot. Over lunch with the help of James I replaced the brake pads and bled the system. Along with throwing on a different set of tyres.
All of a sudden the car felt amazing and I was able to lap in free air for several laps under the lap record pace. During the day I also had some amazing battles with various drivers and was really upbeat about my chances in the race.

Quali was an early start 9am on Saturday. The usual suspect joined the queue early to get the best chance of a tow on the straights. The whole session was really enjoyable and very tactical as the group ahead of me kept backing off towards the end of their laps to swap positions on the back straight which then caused me to abort mine. On the last lap I decided to sacrifice some of the tow and leave an even bigger gap and hope for the best. It worked as I managed to cross the line with a 2:17.519 which was enough to secure pole. After making mistakes in the two previous race quali I was really happy that I finally nailed it.

Leading the pack around for the start of the race was a great feeling. I just hoped to get a good start and break the curse of the Green Group where whoever starts on pole gets a poor start and ends up off the track on the first lap. The lights turned green and we were away in my case with far too much wheel spin and I was back in 4th. I made a stupid mistake catching a slide around Palmer and put a wheel on the grass at which point I was just a passenger heading for the wall. Luckily I stopped just short of the wall and watched the entire field go by as I sat there wheel spinning trying to get back to the track.

Two things quickly passed my mind the first is unprintable. The second was awesome I didn’t hit the wall the race is not over yet.

Once back on the track a distant last the aim was simple. Just drive as fast as possible and overtake anything I could. By the end of the first lap it turned out I wasn’t the only front runner near the back and I had Mark & Toby for company. There were so many great battles over the next 7 laps as the three of us worked our way through the field. At the time I had no idea what position I was in. Just keep pushing forward and catch up with the next car. It was only in parc ferme at the end of the race when we all parked up in finish order that it hit me how many cars I had passed.

Sure it wasn’t the win I was looking for and I would have loved to have finally had a battle with Dan at the front. But getting past 16 cars in 7 laps was as much fun. I’m just grateful I didn’t smash into the wall or take any other cars out with my spin. I got to finish the race while having some great battles with a great group of mates.

Next stop is Rockingham on 16/17th September. Running order is to be confirmed but likely to be quali on Saturday and race on Sunday.

Aim is to keep it on the black stuff!

#CaterhamFamily

Photos courtesy of Jon @ SnappyRacers.com