CATERHAM ACADEMY MOVES ON TO SNETTERTON
It’s incredible to think that we’re already at the half way stage of the first season of racing for this year’s class of Caterham Academy Championship racers, as they edge ever closer to completing their freshman year. After a sprint and two races to begin the season, part two of the 2019 campaign gets underway with a visit this weekend to Snetterton’s 300 circuit in Norfolk, where slipstreaming and straight line speed will be the key elements here.
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, by virtue of the fact that the size of the Academy entry every year warrants splitting the drivers into what becomes two separate championship battles, control of the top of the points table currently rests with Alexander Conway, the son of Roadsport racer Trevor. Alex started strong with a 2nd place in the Curborough sprint, however once the championship transitioned to the circuit races it was clear that he was already the benchmark everyone had to try and usurp. So far both races at Cadwell Park and last time out at Oulton Park have fallen his way, the latter seeing Conway fighting back from a poor start to get the better of Dimitri Melas and maintain his 100% circuit win record. This weekend Alex will be hoping to keep it up and make it three wins out of three.
This leaves a 12 point margin over the rest of the field, with David Morgan heading to Norfolk in 2nd place with two 6th places at Curborough and Cadwell Park before benefitting from early incidents at Oulton to eventually claim 2nd place. The same could be said of 3rd placed man William Brunt, who also took his first podium with a 3rd last time out as he too kept his cool whilst those around him lost theirs. Roger Gaunt so far as a personal best of 4th place at Curborough but hasn’t been able to transition all of that pace on to the circuits after picking up two 7th places in the process, while Dimitri Melas fell from grace after an impressive 3rd place at Cadwell Park by spinning from a lead battle at Oulton and losing valuable points in the process. Other drivers to watch for in the Green Group include David Gracey who picked up a top 5 at Oulton Park and James Venning who won the Curborough sprint before scoring 2nd at Cadwell Park.
The leader of the White Group has had a near identical campaign so far as Tom Wyllys also placed 2nd in the sprint before going on to win both races so far. However, up to this point he has had to go head-to-head with key rival Blair Mcconachie on each occasion, as he would be the Curborough victor and the man to finish 2nd to Wyllys each time. With both men scoring a fastest lap each, it leaves Wyllys leading the standings by two points with the premise of more duelling this weekend. Back in 3rd place, James Fowler already has two podium finishes to his name as he made up the final step on the rostrum at Curborough and Cadwell and was able to maintain a solid run of results with 4th at Oulton Park. He has a 9 point deficit to make up to the two men in front but will have to find another gear in order to keep pace with Wyllys and Mcconachie.
Next up, three points separate a developing battle for 4th place between Adam West, Wes Payne and Daryl Cresswell. West has seen a steady improvement in his results with each passing round that has currently culminated in 3rd place at Oulton Park. Adam will be hoping his upward trajectory brings him closer to the top step of the podium sooner rather than later. Just behind him, both Payne and Cresswell are yet to secure a top five finish but despite this, their ability to both bank a consistent stream of points has allowed them to remain on the fringes of the top 5 in the points standings. Christopher McMahon captured a decent top 5 placing in the sprint, while in contrast Harry Eyre a few places further down the table has been able to transition to the circuits somewhat better than the drivers immediately around him. Expect both to be keen to make progress.