2017 SEASON REVIEW: CAR MAGAZINE CATERHAM ACADEMY – WHITE GROUP
Whilst Daniel French was looking strong in the Green Group, his friend Andy Morgan, who had signed up for the season at the same time, was looking utterly dominant in the White Group. The 43 year-old Surrey man won the all-important Aintree Sprint and benefitted from a dry run at Curborough meaning his winning streak would continue through the sprints and into the first race at Brands Hatch.
Further mirroring the Green Group (where James Murphy was runner up at Aintree and in the championship as a whole), Chobham’s Daniel Halstead started and finished the year in second. His sole victory would come at Rockingham, where Morgan had an uncharacteristic wobble in form; landing himself in the gravel.
However, it was 16 year-old Tom Grensinger that was perhaps Morgan’s chief rival on track during the year, even if he was to finish well shy of the championship podium. Somewhat disadvantaged by not being old enough to drive on the road, Grensinger had some experience from Junior Ministox, although this is a relatively low speed sport on dirt ovals (hence being acceptable for the novice nature of Academy). Despite the lack of any high-speed driving experience, Grensinger scored a creditable third at Aintree, but zero wet weather experience at Curborough left him struggling at the bottom of the order. Come the races and Cheshire driver would come into his own, pushing Morgan hard at Brands and taking an impressive win at Donington. But once more, tricky conditions and inexperience led to difficulty with a DNF at Rockingham and with it, any hopes for a championship podium. Grensinger would take another win in the final round of the year, demonstrating what might have been, but also marking himself as one to watch next year as he progresses up through the Caterham ladder.
Tom Allen stood out early in the year for being ‘excitingly’ quick to watch at the pre-season Academy test day, although this, perhaps predictably, ended up in an interface-scenario with one of the circuit’s walls; and it was not the last time the 39 year-old would experience this during the year. Wayward he might be, but fast he certainly was, which rewarded him with three podiums during the year and the final position on the championship rostrum.
Honourable mentions should also go to both Chris Bates and Oli Pratt, who put themselves on the podium during the year. Oli, the youngest of the Pratt dynasty (which has seen five members of the family take part in the Academy over the years), took a couple of thirds, whilst Bates rounded out the year with a pair of runner-up positions, suggesting that he could be on for a Pete Walters style performance next year.
The Academy was supported this year by CAR Magazine, the well-known monthly. Journalist Ben Miller went further than previous Academy media partners by electing to build the car himself. After a rather steady (okay, slow) start to the year, Miller improved steadily taking a best finish of eighth at Donington.
The Caterham Academy celebrated its 23rd season of competition in 2017. At the time of writing, the 2018 season has long since sold out and nearly half the places for 2019 have been sold.