After beginning their racing careers at Aintree a few weeks ago, this year’s CarThrottle Caterham Academy drivers hit the race track for the first time – albeit not quite in terms of competing against each other at the same time just yet. This weekend the class of 2018 heads to Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby to take their second of two sprints to prepare them for the rest of the racing season ahead.

The Caterham Academy has been active since 1995 and during that time, more than 1,000 drivers have come through the ranks and turned themselves from general members of the public to fully-fledged and qualified racing drivers. The Academy is solely open to men and women who have never held a competitive racing licence prior to joining, as all participants will take their ARDS test together as well as participating in a handling and set-up day, a drift day to learn car control and an official test day before setting off on their first season of racing.

Such is the popularity of the Academy, that the entire entry is split into two groups – the Green Group and the White Group. Each compete on track separately meaning that by the end of the season, there will be two Academy championships. Traditionally, there is also usually a special end of season Autumn Trophy race at the final event which is open to drivers from both groups, allowing them to duke it out to decide which was the fastest of the two.

The opening sprint at Aintree threw up some interesting results as both Green and White groups began to reveal their early pacesetters. That said, sprinting is a different discipline compared to circuit racing so a driver who may be quick on a short point-to-point course against the clock may fair differently when put on a race track with 20+ drivers around them. So, while the results wouldn’t necessarily be definitive in who the main frontrunners would be for the season, it at least gave us some kind of an initial benchmark to judge the drivers against.

With the Green Group, Ben Appleton Lopez ended up fastest after all four of his runs, with Andrew Murgatoyd and Stuart Bell completing the podium behind him. Ben Buckley, Tom Brown and Greg Smith also turned in times that put them at the top of at least one session, so this half dozen should initially be ones to look out for here. Over in the White Group, no-one could top Dan Piper after his final timed run late in the day put him at the head of the overall result for the rest of the day, while Gregory Monks could thank his first run of the event for keeping him in 2nd, after 3rd placed man Chris Moore beat him on the next three runs, but couldn’t better his initial effort. Andy Tate was also another name to throw himself into the mix, so expect these four to be the main contenders in this group.

Rockingham is sure to provide an interesting test for our Academy drivers, as they have one more timed test to tackle before hitting the circuits for real. One has to wonder if any of Aintree’s podium finishers will carry their momentum forwards, or whether or not Corby will produce some new challengers come the end of Saturday afternoon.


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