2014 SEASON REVIEW: PISTONHEADS.COM CATERHAM ACADEMY – GROUP 1
Alistair Calvert proved to be a worthy winner of the Group 1 Academy. Photo: www.snappyracers.com
The Caterham Academy is a unique series exclusively for novice drivers. An all-inclusive ‘introduction to motorsport’ package of Ford Sigma powered road-legal race car, race licence, technical support, the racing itself and perhaps most importantly, the guidance of the Caterham team at every stage. The 125bhp car uses an open diff, 5 speed gearbox and low-grip tyres to ‘teach’ car control. So successful has the formula been that over twenty years, nearly 900 ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy and each year, two identical Academy championships are run in parallel to cater for the demand.
Property developer Olly Wigg started the year as the man to beat with dominant performances in the sprint phase of the Academy; two sprints making up the start of the seven round series. The challenges of Blyton followed the straightforward layout of the first round at Aintree, before the series moved on to the races. Wigg was peerless and a win was expected, let alone predicted, for the first race at Oulton. But things did not go quite to plan.
It was Group 1’s eventual champion that emerged from the challengers in tricky conditions at Oulton Park. 38 year-old Alistair Calvert, a London based property professional, had been on the podium in the sprints, but was some way short of Wigg’s times. However, come wet qualifying at Oulton, Calvert was leagues ahead of everyone, setting the series up for an exciting race debut. What happened next made it all the more thrilling. Calvert, perhaps caught out by his first ever race start, span at the first corner, dropping him to eighteenth and leaving Wigg to inherit the lead, but in the space of the fifteen minute race, Calvert scythed through the field to catch and pass Wigg. Wigg’s pace suddenly increased once he was shown were Calvert was quick and the pair diced for the lead. It was setting itself up to be a last lap dash to the line, only for Wigg to repeat Calvert’s feat and spin away his challenge at Old Hall. Calvert went on to win, but so far ahead were the pair that Wigg could still recover in second place.
Wigg would get his own back at the next two rounds with Calvert following him home, whilst a trail of wannabe’s took to the third step of the podium behind them. Then came Croft and the incidents that would decide the championship. Wigg had picked up a penalty for a yellow flag infringement, only to come under scrutiny for a last corner incident where, rejoining the track, he clipped another car. The final result was exclusion and the end of his championship campaign. Damage limitation saw him win at Silverstone, but Calvert, a worthy winner (and proud new Dad), pick up the title. Meanwhile, it was Wigg’s younger brother and business partner Ben who finished third.
The three are expected to resume their battles in Roadsport next year, joined by some stiff competition, but with a new championship, a fresh start, and even more motivation to prove he can be a champion, Olly Wigg will be a man to watch next year.