CATERHAM ACADEMY RACES TO SILVERSTONE FOR PENULTIMATE ROUNDS


This weekend’s pair of races in the 2019 Caterham Academy could prove crucial, as come the end of the day we could have crowned our first of two champions this season. Such is the points situation, one is almost wrapped up a weekend early, while the other is anything but over with at least four drivers in contention. Silverstone’s National circuit plays host to yet more Caterham Motorsport action after the Team Enduro back in March and the epic season-opening weekend a month later.

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-four years, over a thousand ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy and indeed up the ladder to the top of the roster.

So, let’s detail the points table that COULD be settled this weekend –  the Green Group. There’s no denying it, it’s been all about one man – and one very bright yellow Caterham. Alexander Conway, son of Roadsport racer Trevor, has been near unstoppable this season and has won three events and placed 2nd in the other two – a remarkable record! With a possible 26 points available (a win giving 25 plus the fastest lap point) here, Conway essentially needs to outscore 2nd placed man Dimitris Melas by at least four points on Saturday to seal the title a weekend early, meaning that even Conway wouldn’t even have to score in Kent to become champion given that he’s taken almost all of the victories up to this point and would win on countback on a tie-break were it to happen

The fight for 2nd place should still be interesting, however. Melas himself is on 100 entering this weekend and is the only other circuit race winner this year other than Conway. Hot on his heels are both David Morgan and William Brunt on 99 points, while James Venning (winner of the Curborough sprint) is a further five back on 94. Mathematically, all four of them could still be in with a slim chance of the title should Conway have a disastrous final two races, but realistically it’s 2nd place the quartet are really fighting for. Morgan has one podium to his name with a 2nd at Oulton Park, Brunt finished right behind him in 3rd that day and Venning has swept up the remaining runner-up places behind Conway for most of the season. Only a retirement at Oulton has stopped Venning from being the closest challenger for the title at this stage.

Roger Gaunt could be a surprise candidate for a top 3 end of season placing if he’s able to reduce the five-point gap to Venning, while the next closest battle in the standings will see Ben Miller and David Gracey battling over 7th place separated by just a point. Miller also retired from Oulton but otherwise has racked up rock-solid consistency taking four top 5 finishes, while Gracey has maintained top 10 pace all throughout the year and banked points at every race. Dave Currey and Lydia Gould round out the top 10 standings with both hoping for improved results too.

So that’s one half of the story, but what about the other? Looking across the paddock to the White Group, things definitely aren’t as simple as their emerald coloured counterparts. Up to this point, it’s been all about Wyllys & McConachie. While the names do make for a rather catchy crime-fighting TV duo (don’t you think?), it also signals the season-long struggle for power with Wyllys leading by two points heading to Silverstone. Again, like Conway and Venning in the Green Group, whenever one has won a race, the other has been right behind them on the podium in 2nd place with Wyllys’ win tally seeing him lead 3 to 2. Both have a fastest lap each, although Wyllys does already have his extra marshalling points up his sleeve while McConachie is yet to earn his own. One small slip from either driver could certainly swing the advantage one way or the other, and both drivers would need the other to have a poor day to create a substantial enough points gap to make their task much easier or harder, depending on who you are. Our feeling is that this one’s going all the way to Brands Hatch, but motorsport’s unpredictability has reared its head many a time when least expected, so keep your eyes peeled for what goes on at the front this time.

James Fowler, meanwhile, as almost set up camp in 3rd place as he currently holds it in the standings and has placed there all but once in each of the five events. He’s now 12 points away from the lead and could be an outside bet for glory, although he’ll need both Wyllys and McConachie to stumble big time to be a catalyst come Brands Hatch. Adam West has one podium and two top 5s to his name, but sits 13 points back in 4th and needs more strong results to keep a place in the top 3 within a realistic range. An interesting battle could be for 5th between Wes Payne and Christopher McMahon as the pair have a four-point gap between them, while Daryl Cresswell is only a couple of points back in 7th place and could make it a three-way scrap if he plays his cards right. Carl Jones is in something of no man’s lane in 8th place with a distinctive gap between those in front and behind him. One final exciting contest should be for 9th and 10th with Nick Allbones and Harry Eyre only separated by a point.

One final point to touch on is that the long-standing Academy lap record set by Don Lamb all the way back in 2008 has the potential of falling this weekend. While the cars today are essentially the same as they were eleven years ago, there are one or two subtle differences and that could be all it takes to lower the target time of 1’12.470. Let’s see who’s quick enough to snatch it!

Scott Woodwiss