CATERHAM ACADEMY GRADUATES GET EARLY UPGRADE WITH 2021 ROADSPORT CHALLENGE AT SNETTERTON


The 2020 Caterham Academy season is complete and the latest group of rookie drivers have completed their first ever campaign of racing after they began 2020 as complete novices without a racing licence. While the final rounds at Donington Park would have normally signalled the end of competition for the year, this time we’re not quite done. Ahead of the drivers moving into the Roadsport Championship next season, Caterham Motorsport has laid on a special “2021 Roadsport Challenge” race this weekend at Snetterton to allow those entering a first taste of what racing is like in their upgraded machines.

Since the season finale at Donington which crowned the champions in both the Green and White groups, a number of drivers have already fitted the mandatory upgrades to their cars to make them Roadsport ready for next season. This mainly entails changing the tyres from the dedicated Academy compound to the regularly used Avon ZZS that they will run in the next three steps on the ladder, plus the addition of a rear anti-roll bar to reduce body roll and roll-on oversteer. All of this adds up to making the car effectively a second a lap quicker over the Academy spec.

That Autumn Trophy race at Donington was an absolute thriller with a frantic battle for the win and giving a glimpse into what we can expect next year. Here at Snetterton, we get another chance to see that and possibly a continuation of rivalries that began brewing between drivers from both Academy groups. Thankfully, we do have both of this year’s champions racing this weekend with Tom Cockerill and Taylor O’Flanagan, who helped put on a great display of racing in the Autumn Trophy race to both reach the podium behind eventual race winner Domenique Mannsperger. The two of them can now continue their rivalry in a rematch from Donington and Cockerill will want to put one over O’Flanagan and finish ahead of him if he can to even up the score. As for Mannsperger, he managed to top and tail his victories, winning at Oulton Park and then twice at Donington just two weeks ago to prove he’s the man in form and if he’s able to use Snetterton’s long straights to his advantage, there’s every chance that he could make it three in a row and really take the bragging rights into 2021.

Could there possibly be anyone else that could steal a win from under the noses of the above trio? You only have to look at those who finished 4th downwards to find signs. Simon Shaw won at Thruxton in the regular Academy season and was the only person other than O’Flanagan and Mannsperger to do so in 2020, while Hugo Bush came agonisingly close by finishing four times – could Snetterton finally be his breakthrough? Others from the White Group appearing here include Nick Timpson, Sam Gibbons, Ryan Lovett and Christopher Broom, all drivers that ended their first season of racing in the top 10 in points, something they should all be proud of.

Over with the Green Group drivers appearing, the big driver behind champion Cockerill is obviously his main rival Chris Skillicorn, who ended up five points behind after dropped scores and won twice at Cadwell Park and Donington Park. In the Autumn Trophy race, the front running pack was mainly dominated by White Group drivers, meaning Skillicorn will need to be on form to ensure he, Cockerill and others from his group are on form to try and beat them. Next highest in points on the entry list is Deniz Erkan-Bax, the London based Turkish driver who finished 4th in the standings in Green Group and never finished a race lower than 5th all season, as well as seeing the flag in all of them. He too has got potential race-winning speed and might want to pull out a little bit extra if he has any in reserve to pinch a win before 2021. Colin Gould’s chrome turquoise machine is also on the list too, as are Andy Lund and Peter Lawson, two more drivers that completed their seasons finishing in the top 10 in the standings at its conclusion.

This race will definitely have an Autumn Trophy vibe and if it’s as intense as that one was, it’s sure to be a thriller. Snetterton’s 300 layout is almost a circuit built for Caterham racing with long straights providing ample opportunity to make passes. This circuit also epitomises a quote that has become synonymous with Caterham racing too – the worst place you want to be in one of these races is in the lead at the last corner on the last lap, because by the time you get to the chequered flag, there’s no guarantee you’ll still be there!

Scott Woodwiss