2018 SEASON REVIEW: CARTHROTTLE CATERHAM ACADEMY CHAMPIONSHIP – GREEN GROUP
The Car Throttle 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-four years, more than 1000 ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy. Each year, two identical Academy championships are run in parallel to cater for the demand; a ‘Green’ group and a ‘White’ group.
Since 2004, the opening sprint of the Caterham Academy has been on the short, simple, but fast course at Aintree and the event has always acted like a barometer for the season, more frequently than not predicting the eventual championship winner. In fact, we have to go back twelve years to James Sharrock in 2006 to find a champion who did not appear on the Aintree podium. Justin Heap would better that feat in style this year; his ninth place setting the record for the lowest ever opening event score for an eventual Academy champion.
Fortunately for Heap, in recent years Academy has allowed a single drop score, meaning his dominance of the remaining events, four wins from six, would comfortably secure his title from second placed Lars Hoffmann, although their fortunes were inextricably linked. Hoffmann faired even more poorly in Liverpool, finishing 12th, although worse was to come three-rounds-in at Brands Hatch. Whilst battling over third with Heap, Hoffmann tripped over the back of the blue car and finished in the gravel at the top of paddock, much to his father Kurt’s frustration (a veteran Caterham racer himself). Heap escaped mostly unscathed from the incident, which brought out a safety car negating Will Rosetti’s considerable lead and allowing Heap to first challenge, then overcome him for his first race victory.
The two races that Heap did not win both went the way of 23 year-old Hoffmann, making up for his Brands faux pas and towards the latter end of the season he was becoming the man to beat, finishing the year in the runner-up position; impressive for a driver who had never been on track prior to the start of the year and was, from his perspective, sitting in the wrong side of the car. With several of the top performers in Academy either taking time out or skipping a level to Seven 270R next year, Hoffmann is anticipated to be heißer Liebling in Roadsport 2019.
By contrast, Andrew Murgatroyd’s championship attack appeared to wane somewhat in the final rounds. Unlike the pair ahead, Murgatroyd started the year well, with a podium at Aintree, again at Brands and finally Combe, before disappearing into mid-field obscurity for the final two rounds. Still, he had done enough for the final championship podium place. His Aintree second place is a simple fact that belies the drama of the Green Group’s results. Ben Lopez-Appleton took the win with a run of 53.51s, Murgatroyd just 1/100th of a second behind and Stuart another 1/100th behind him. Ben Buckley missed out on a podium being a frankly tardy 1/50th behind Bell.
Lopez-Appleton’s opening round pace wholly disappeared in the following event and he slowly worked his way up the results, rewarded with his second podium in the final weekend at Silverstone. Bell and Buckley also took two podiums during the year, but an unfortunate collision between the pair at Combe took them out of the race and any chance of a championship podium position. Will Rosetti, another of the five drivers who visited the podium twice (and no more), finished the year in sixth, having lost out on the Brands win and failing to capitalise on his clear outright speed. He was the only driver to score two fastest laps during the year.