If Rui Ferreira is this quick at the wheel of a Caterham, imagine a rental car! – Photo: SnappyRacers

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-one years, approximately 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; a ‘Green’ group and a ‘White’ group.

As everyone knows, no other car is better for exploring the limits of performance or trying out extreme manoeuvres than an airport rental. We think this is the secret behind 46 year-old Rui Ferreira’s brilliance. Having lived all over the world, Ferreira’s work for Hertz Rent-a-car, now has him based in the UK, allowing the Portuguese native the opportunity to live out a racing dream through the Academy – and he has made the most of it. Quickest in the opening sprint at Aintree (although success there has been far from an indicator of success later in the year), Ferreira remained on the podium at every event other than the last, by which time he scored enough points to ensure the championship regardless, taking two more wins along the way (including the first race at Rockingham).

Meanwhile, McLaren Quality Engineer Rob Yates really took to the spirit of Academy and drove his car to every event, eschewing instruction and car set-up to spend his very limited budget on time behind the wheel. It paid off with a win at the Blyton sprint (the second and final of the season) and another win to cap of his year at Silverstone, finishing runner-up to Ferreira, although after the sprint stage the 27 year-old (the youngest in the year) was briefly at the top of the table.

Nick Vince’s ‘Marmalade’ orange Caterham finished highest of the four drivers in the over-50’s category, with the 60 year-old scoring three top ten finishes to start his year (including a season’s best 6th at the first sprint). Meanwhile, the only female competitor in the group, Sarah Porter, also had a couple of top ten finishes, but was prone to the occasional spin and better results are sure to await her in Roadsport next year, possibly motivated by the fact that her husband will be joining her on the grid; the novice bypassing Academy in order to compete against his wife (the wisdom of which is yet to be determined).

Caterpillar engineer Will Lloyd started the season steadily, but shone in the races, finally snatching a memorable win from Ferreira at Oulton Park. Back on the podium at Silverstone, Lloyd scooped third overall, but having found his feet we anticipate that he will be part of the lead pack in Roadsports. Meanwhile Jon Curry, the self-proclaimed least-lightest driver in the series, proved that in his words “#fatblokescangofast” with an emotional third place at Castle Combe again proving out the level playing field that is a hallmark of Academy.

Simon Lambert


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