For many people who are fans of motorsport and cars, being a racing driver is a dream, an ambition and even a goal. But while some feel this is unattainable, others that can decide to take the plunge and hit the track to begin a journey that will take them across the UK as they take their first racing steps. One of the most popular proving grounds for novice drivers has been the Caterham Academy, a championship that has turned over 1000 ordinary people into bonafide racers and has sold out its grids since its inception in 1995

The class of 2020 are now preparing to finally get their first season of racing underway, after waiting three months longer than they had originally anticipated due to the pandemic. Originally, the Academy season had been set to begin with the traditional sprint event to mark the drivers’ first official competitive event, but when motorsport was suspended this sadly had to be abandoned. Fast forward to July and the drivers have completed their usual pre-season test day and are now ready for their first taste of racing action at last.

The Academy car itself is a road-legal Caterham Seven race car, sporting a 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine good for 125bhp tied to a 5-speed gearbox, “road and race” spec suspension and Avon control Academy tyres. All of this ensures that every driver has a car that can teach them many lessons about track driving, car control and racecraft, whilst also providing a platform allowing all drivers to learn and develop at the same rate.

Given that this will be the first time that every 2020 Academy driver will have turned a competitive wheel on a race weekend together, there’s isn’t anything in terms of a form guide to look through, but we can still venture into the entry list and pick out a few drivers for notable reasons. 

The White Group will be the first to race on Saturday and will include drivers that already have connections to the automotive and motorsport worlds. Taylor O’Flanagan works in marketing for Car Chase Heroes, a driving experience company run by former Mazda MX-5 champion and Porsche Carrera Cup racer Tom Roche, so finding a driver coach shouldn’t be too tricky! Germany’s Domenique Mannsperger helped his father run their own Porsche racing team, as well as his father also racing a Porsche with Kurt Hoffmann back in the 1990s, Kurt being the father of last year’s Roadsport champion Lars. 

Lindon Sugar has been selling Caterhams for Williams Automobiles for the last five years and has now decided to “scratch the itch” and race one for a change, while Jack Woodgate brings things a little closer to home as he will represent Caterham as their Head of Sales Development – no pressure, then! Given that he’s not only been born in the town of Caterham, attended Caterham School and now works for Caterham Cars, racing a Caterham was almost inevitable, don’t you think? Ben Sengelow oversees workshop operations for Lotus and Caterham Silverstone, and Simon Shaw has been around motorsport since the age of 11 after he began helping a few classic racing teams.

This group will also feature James Walker, who’s better known in the automotive and influencer world as Mr JWW. With more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube to his name, he will be showcasing his racing efforts for the world to see in a car that may have much less horsepower than some of the exotic supercars he’s been filmed driving, but he does declare his Caterham Academy machine a lot of fun to drive! Plus, we’ve heard on the grapevine that he was fairly quick on the test day, so he might be a dark horse to watch out for…

The Green Group also has a few competitors that well versed in the world of cars and racing too. Richard Brooks’ father ran Jaguar XJ220 race cars at Le Mans and European GT races in 1995 and is now keen to continue the family name in the motorsport paddock, while Ron Mounsey makes the switch from the navigator’s seat of a Talbot Sunbeam on historic rallies to the driver’s seat of an Academy race car! Bruce Duckworth owns a Jaguar E-Type among other classic machines, a favourite car of a fellow racer in his group in Pete Lawson, Micah Lazarus is an engineering student and a Brighton Veteran Car Run competitor, Tom Cockerill was a former national champion in remote control car racing and Rob Oldland’s Academy race car will be the fourth Caterham he’s owned in his lifetime having previously driven a Roadsport, a 420R and a 620S! His eldest son Brandon is also gearing up to tackle the Academy himself next year. Steve Lancaster is another driver like Mounsey that has experience of classic road rallying as he too has taken part as a navigator.

Across both groups, there are a couple of international drivers gracing the grid here in the UK. Alongside the aforementioned Domenique Mannsperger, Germany has a second representative in Eike Schick, born originally in Berlin but now based in London. Another overseas driver is Todd Corder, who hails from Tampa, Florida in the US and is excited to experience a car that’s very different to the Chevrolet muscle cars he’s been used to back home! Also, Denis Erkan-Bax will race with the Academy having originally been born in Turkey but raised in London. He will be keen to make an impression from the first flying lap he drives.

Despite the stumbling block that pushed the start of the season back, it’s finally time for the 2020 class of Academy drivers to begin their racing story, with the first chapter set to be written this weekend. We wish them all the very best of luck!

Scott Woodwiss


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