The 2020 class of the Caterham Academy now have their very first race under their belts after they made their first appearance on track in less than ideal weather conditions at Oulton Park just a couple of weeks ago. Now they’ve had time to digest that experience, it’s straight back into action this weekend at Cadwell Park, the sight of the circuit racing debut of last year’s Academy, to pick up where they left off.

The Caterham Academy is a unique series exclusively for novice drivers. An all-inclusive ‘introduction to motorsport’ package, it includes a 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 in the last twenty-five years, over a thousand ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy and indeed up the ranks of the Motorsport ladder.

The Green Group will race first this weekend and looking back at their opening race, two drivers stood out head and shoulder above the race on what turned out be drier conditions than their White Group counterparts, albeit still damp in places. Chris Skillicorn and Tom Cockerill ended up in a close battle for the lead for almost the entire race, with Cockerill coming out on top after a daring pass into Hislops while lapping backmarkers before both drivers survived hair-raising last lap spins at Druids before the flag. Cockerill took the honour of the first win of the year and will wish to keep that momentum going, while Skillicorn will be out for revenge and will push for a top step visit himself to set up a rivalry that could last all season.

Behind them several seconds back was Turkish-born Londoner Denis Erkan-Bax. He drove brilliantly to recover from a first-lap spin at Cascades to tear his way through the pack and end up 3rd, with silverware as his reward. Cadwell isn’t too different to Oulton, albeit a little narrower, so maybe he may still be in form this weekend. In the end, he just beat Colin Gould to the line and to the podium, with Colin driving well himself to come from 6th on the grid to just miss out on a first-time rostrum visit. Behind them, there was plenty of frantic battling for top 10 places, featuring the likes of Toby Boyes, James Hall, Gwyn Jones, Bruce Duckworth, Micah Lazarus and Rob Oldland. They will all be keen to make further progress in what will hopefully be dry conditions. Another driver who should be there is Andy Lund, who qualified on the second row and initially challenged for the lead but ended up spinning down the pack due to his over-enthusiasm. If he can contain his excitement this weekend, a strong result could be on the cards!

Let’s cross over to the White Group, who had to tackle the worst of the weather that day at Oulton Park, but braved the conditions brilliantly despite their lack of experience. A brilliant drive from Domenique Mannsperger helped him clinch a win from 3rd on the grid, making moves through the top five to make it happen. He beat Hugo Bush to victory that day who started from pole and lead most of the way before being reeled in throughout the closing stages and the pair will be certain to duke it out once again. Also in contention towards the front of the pack were Simon Shaw, Taylor O’Flanagan and James Walker, aka Mr JWW, all of which took turns running in podium positions throughout the race and will be certain to feature there again. Walker will also be looking to ensure he doesn’t end up spinning as he did at Oulton, but the pace he was able to set on the day coupled with his test day form at Castle Combe means that there’s a chance that he could be even more formidable on a bone dry track.

Filling out the rest of the top ten were the likes of Nick Timpson, Ian Brown, Sam Gibbons, Alex Vincent and Christopher Broom, all of whom had varying levels of pace given the track conditions. What should be interesting is seeing if there’s a difference in form should the conditions be better than they were a couple of weeks ago. If that’s the case, then not only could we see a shakeup in the running order, but also in the championship points as well. The rest of the pack will be filled with plenty more drivers wishing to break into the top ten and climb up the order, so there may even be a surprise name pop up in the top half of the field as the weekend progresses.

With every single lap they complete, the Academy drivers continue to get quicker, smarter and more experienced and will grow in confidence as the season goes on. Cadwell Park is just the next chapter in their fledgeling racing careers and it will be fantastic to see them continue developing!

Scott Woodwiss


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