Gillias came out on top after one of the closest Academy championships in recent years – Photo: SnappyRacers

The paddock one-upmanship between the Green and White groups meant that if the Green group was going to be close, then the White group was going to be closer. Given that there was only one point between three drivers, the White group needed something special to make their finale count and they did not disappoint.

When Ben Gillias and Jay McCormack arrived at Donington, they faced the very real prospect of becoming joint champions with an unresolvable tie-break. If Gillias won the race and McCormack came second (a very likely, and indeed, the actual outcome), all McCormack needed was the single point from the fastest lap to leave each driver on equal points, wins (two each), second-places (two each), and thirds (again, two each); and no other scores counting. But although the Irishman had been the driver to cross the line first more than any other (one win being downgraded following a track-limits penalty), he had never been the fastest driver on circuit and Donington would not be an exception. To validate his championship victory further, it was Gillias that took the never-more-crucial point for fastest lap.

James Beardwell was the only other driver to taste victory during the White group’s year, winning the first outing at Aintree. Despite the occasional pole position, Beardwell was never again able to surpass the two ahead, although he was on the podium slightly more often than not. When he was not, a raft of drivers all had there shot including Spencer Wright, Phil Bianchi, Anthony Taylor, Richard Toomey and Eric Tiv. Tiv’s second place at Croft, by far his best result of the year (and the only time either Gillias or McCormack was not second) became crucial in the final scores, as it settled a tie-break between him and Taylor to give him the last place in the top five (Phil Bianchi picking up fourth).

Slightly further down the table, the only female driver in the Academy, Caroline Everett, finished in ninth place, helped by a top five finish in the first race of the year. Everett may have had some tips from partner and Roadsport champion (runner-up in the 2015 Academy) Russ Olivant…

The Academy was supported this year by the The City Magazine; the luxury lifestyle publication aimed at those who, predictably, work in the City. Editorial duties meant that, unusually, the drive would be shared by Jen Mason and Richard Brown. The car would be reflected in the points table as simply ‘The City Magazine’. After a promising start, Mason scored the pair’s best result of the year, 17th at the opening sprint. After that, however, things did not go quite as well and the car ended the year bottom of the Green Group table.

The Caterham Academy celebrated its 22nd season of competition in 2016. At the time of writing, the 2017 season has long since sold out and nearly half the places for 2018 have been sold. In a remarkable milestone, the 2017 season will see the 1000th driver take part in the Caterham Academy.

Simon Lambert


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