The new students of the 2021 edition of the Caterham Academy are already one sprint and one race old in their burgeoning racing careers and are now back in action at a circuit that hasn’t seen racing from the first step on the Caterham Motorsport ladder for a while. The incredible Knockhill Circuit in Fife, Scotland marks the second and third races since passing their ARDS test as for only the second time in its history since it started, the Academy will contest two championship points scoring races on the same weekend after the first occasion at Brands Hatch last year.

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.

The Mallory Park race day gave us our first chance to see who’s got what it takes to tackle a circuit race for the first time and hold their own in pursuit of victory. With the Green Group, Geoff Newman managed to strike as the first race winner of the year and thanks to also picking up a 2nd place at the Curborough sprint he now sits at the top of the table at this early stage with 48 points, but behind him it’s much closer. So close in fact that incredibly, the drivers from 2nd down to 6th are all tied on exactly 40 points each! How they got there respectively is of course different for each driver, but Chris Fraser holds the runner up spot in the order due to his 2nd place at Mallory Park to go with his 9th place at Curborough.

Marc Jones comes next as the third of the three Mallory podium visiters, equal with Freddie Chiddicks after he picked up P3 in the sprint with both drivers scoring a 7th respectively too, while Mark Kendle and Paul Woodman also share the same results and are tied for 5th. Woodman in particular, driving this year’s media car entry for Lovecars, will want to redeem himself after he qualified strongly at Mallory and was up to 2nd in the early laps until a mistake forced him to battle back through the pack to 6th. Given that he has guidance from the legendary Tiff Needell, we suspect he’ll be straight on the pace again this weekend. Sprint winner Ian Harris sits in 7th in points, ahead of James Cook, Mark Williams and Robert Demain.

With the White Group, William James was certainly the man to beat as he won at Mallory Park by a very un-Caterham-like margin of almost 7 seconds, proving that he certainly has the page on his rivals when it comes to competing on track. However, because Charlie Lower not only won the sprint but also came 2nd at Mallory, compared to James’ 3rd at Curborough, it’s Lower that sits on top despite both drivers being tied at 48 points apiece. Harry George has had a decent couple of events so far to only be five away from the top two, although he couldn’t quite match his sprint form of 2nd place on the circuit, where he ended up 5th and will wish to bounce back better. Benja Hedley was the other man to take home a trophy from Mallory Park after taking 3rd and will wish to repeat it this weekend, while Giles Perry ensures that all drivers that finished in the top 5 at the first race hold the first 5 championship points positions at this point.

Gareth Lucas only just missed out last time by finishing 6th and will be hoping to break into the leading quintet at Knockhill, while Richard J Ainscough, or Rocco as he’s better known, will be doing his best to try and uphold family honours by improving on his P8 finish at Mallory Park. James Moon, Neil Perry and Robert Beke complete the current top 10 in points, with Beke potentially one that could bounce back strong after he finished deep in the pack in his first race compared to a solid 5th place from his sprint performance. Others who are currently outside the top 10 will also have their own personal ambitions and goals from the opening two event and will be keen to make further progress, getting quicker and more confident in their abilities and speed with every lap they drive.

This is a rare visit for the Academy heading to Scotland, but given that Caterham races in the past have been utterly thrilling, we expect nothing less from our fledgling racers as to continue to get to grips with life as a racing driver this season!

Scott Woodwiss


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