This Saturday at Mallory Park in Leicestershire is an exciting time for one particular segment of the Caterham Motorsport paddock this year, as it will mark the first ever circuit races for the latest group of “students” taking part in the 2021 Caterham Academy. Both the Green and White Groups will be in action with one race each and on Mallory’s short and rapid Car Circuit layout, it’s sure to be a thrilling occasion for all involved.

For those who need a reminder, 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 since its inception, over 1,250 ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy and indeed up the ranks of the Motorsport ladder, with 2021 featuring another sold out pair of grids.

2021 thankfully sees a return to some normality as unlike the delayed start to last year which sadly forced its cancellation, this year’s Academy drivers have indeed been able to have their first taste of competition at the traditional season opening sprint at Curborough. The big test, however, comes this weekend as while drivers in both groups got used to making standing starts and driving their Caterhams on a course in anger for a competitive time, they would have done so solo at Curborough, given that sprint events require one car running at a time. For Mallory Park, this will mark their first ever racing start with everyone in their respective group lined up together, something none of these new drivers will have ever done before. Having also completed a Handling Day at the circuit earlier this week, they will now have some idea of which way the circuit goes and what to expect, but we’ll only find out who’s grasped the basics better than anyone else come race time on Saturday.

So, without further ado let’s introduce you to some of the names you’ll be getting familiar with this season in both groups, starting with the Green contingent. The Curborough sprint does award championship points in the same way it would a race win on a circuit, so the driver leading the standings heading to Mallory is Green Group sprint winner Ian Harris. He heads the table from Geoff Newman, former Team GB dinghy sailer Freddie Chiddicks, Lovecars founder Paul Woodman and Mark Williams, which gives us some initial indication of who to expect up at the sharp end of the grid. That said, those who are quick in a sprint aren’t always guaranteed to translate that form over to the circuits, but at the very least we have an idea of who to look out for. The rest of the top 10 features Mark Kendle, Marc Jones, James Cook, Chris Fraser and Terry Minter. The sprint form may well help some of these drivers out when it comes to qualifying, but all of them are yet to begin developing their racecraft, which can only happen once the racing itself gets underway!

There’s a few names to look out for in the Green Group, so let’s turn our attention now to their brethren in the White Group to look at who’s notable on their entry list. Top of the pile leaving Curborough was Charlie Lower, who leads the way from Harry George, William James, Tom Nokes and Robert Beke in the top five, followed by Neil Perry, Benja Hedley (a retiried British team ski racer), Gareth Lucas, Giles Perry and Michael Banton. Just outside the top 10 is a surname that’s no stranger to Caterham racing, as Richard J “Rocco” Ainscough follows in the footsteps of his cousin of the same name and makes his racing debut at Mallory Park.

So, those are some of the drivers who will certainly be hoping to get a few more mentions throughout the 2021 season and primarily they will also have one thing in mind – to pick up their first piece of circuit racing silverware before the day is done. All that’s left for us to say is that we wish every single one of this year’s Caterham Academy drivers the very best of luck for their first ever races and we hope you all enjoy yourselves and bring your cars back home in one piece. The time has some – LET’S GO RACING!

Scott Woodwiss


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