There’s not long left for the freshman drivers of the 2019 Caterham Academy and after a lengthy break, they’re back in action this weekend at Donington Park, with everyone getting a rare chance to compete on the longer and more coveted GP loop with the end of the season in plain sight. This is now the time for championship contenders to step up, bring their A game and make a serious bid for the title – it’s now or never.

The Mirror 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-four years, over a thousand ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy.

Starting with the Green Group, Alexander Conway heads into this weekend holding a six point lead at the top of the table, and may have been one of the drivers that were the exception that didn’t mind the lengthy summer break since the previous round at Snetterton at the end of June. Conway has been by far the most consistent driver in the field, having finished on the podium at every single round including two wins at Cadwell Park and Oulton Park. At Snetterton, Alexander had to settle for 3rd place and he will be itching to get back to the top step this weekend in order to maintain his advantage.

63 year-old David Morgan comes next having made a steady start to the season with two 6th places, however his form took an upward turn with a brilliant 2nd place at Oulton Park, followed by a 4th place at Snetterton, but such is the competitiveness of this year’s Green Group that anyone in the top 10 has a realistic chance of appearing on the rostrum, given the form book shown thus far. William Brunt is another driver who sits 3rd without a race win under his belt so far and despite a mix of results, a 2nd place and a top 5 have both helped him move into a prime position in the standings. Snetterton winner Dimitris Melas comes next with a lot of momentum to maintain, but given his up and down form so far this year, it would suggest that Donington may not work in his favour bur Dimitris will be sure to go all out to prove this wrong!

James Venning’s results would suggest that he should be at the top of the standings with Conway, however the only stumbling block was a DNS at Oulton Park following accident during Friday’s practice,  which has left him in 6th heading to Donington. However, picking up 2nd place at Snetterton saw him return to his expected form and another strong result will surely help him jump up the standings further. David Gracey, Benjamin Miller, Lydia Gould and Dave Currey round off the top 10, all with mixed results to their records so far and keen to make further progress up the field come close of play on Saturday.

In the White Group, it couldn’t be closer – no, literally, Blair McConachie and James Wyllys are dead level on points at this stage in the season and Donington could prove to be a crucial weekend as someone HAS to break the deadlock. Their paths to this position have been unbelievably identical – both have two race wins, two 2nd places and a fastest lap to their names with the only difference being Wyllys’ future marshalling bonus which McConachie is yet to have earned. Don’t be surprised to see these two run off into the distance in a race of their own, provide the rest of the pack hasn’t caught up.

Leading that charge is James Fowler, who has been the next most popular person on the podium so far this season by hoovering up most of the left over 3rd places behind the top two, and with only a 10 point gap to make up, one slip from either McConachie or Wyllys will certainly thrust him straight into championship contention. Adam West and Wes Payne make up the scrap at the base of the top 5 with just two points separating the pair and West also carrying the last remaining 3rd place on his tally after he visited the rostrum for the first time at Oulton Park. Also looking to throw themselves into the hunt will be Daryl Cresswell, Christopher McMahon and Harry Eyre, all of which are becoming mainstays within the top 10 and will be loose threats to steal a podium should lady luck be smiling on them instead.

Now we’re into the second half of the season with just three races left to run, both Academy Groups have some fascinating stories playing out in front of us and what’s brilliant is motorsport’s unpredictability, meaning one thing – unlike a traditional story, we won’t know the ending to either one until the last lap of the last race! So, if everyone’s sitting comfortably…

Scott Woodwiss


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