SEASON REVIEW: OCTANE CATERHAM ACADEMY CHAMPIONSHIP – GROUP 1
Alex Gurr was the 'A' class student in Academy Group 1. Photo: www.rachelhorganphotography.com
The Caterham Academy is a unique series exclusively for novice drivers. An all-inclusive ‘introduction to motorsport’ package of 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 17 years, 800 ordinary people have become racing drivers through the Caterham Academy and each year, two identical Academy championships (Gp1 and Gp2) are run in parallel to cater for the demand.
Hertfordshire driver Alex Gurr dominated the Gp1 championship with only one finish off the podium; the first round sprint at Aintree where he finished fourth. As the championship moved on to Curborough, Gurr found his feet and remained at the top of podium until the penultimate round at Snetterton. Gurr’s winning consistency secured him the championship with a round in hand. That final race, at Rockingham, was the only other non-victory, though a second place and fastest lap showed he wasn’t taking it easy.
A battle amongst several drivers raged behind Gurr and inadvertently helped him to an early (but seemingly inevitable victory) as the chasing drivers robbed each other of points. Jersey based Matthew Lawrence had won the first event and followed Gurr home in the second to take the early championship lead. Podiums at the next events ensured the 51 year-old was Gurr’s closest competitor until disaster struck at Snetterton. Lawrence was collateral damage in an unusual post-chequered-flag incident at the end of qualifying, when a slower driver backed-off across the line and coasted across the track into the path of three cars all on a hot lap. Lawrence’s car was comprehensively damaged, not a corner untouched, but overnight work by the Caterham support team saw him back on the grid the following morning only to be caught up in a second-corner incident that ended his race. Although Lawrence was able to drop this non score, Gurr had done enough already and could have sat out the last race, one in which Lawrence failed to shine although he came home second in the championship.
As the lead pair shared the spoils, Matt Dyer and Brian Caudwell, fought over the scraps. Tristan Judge, an early contender for second, let alone third, had been on the podium for the first three rounds but failed to score at Donington when his car was collected after a spin. A poor score at the following round at Brands turned him into an outside bet. Dyer and Caudwell took their battle to the wire with just a point between them, though Dyer’s distinctive snakeskin car would win through in style by taking victory, while Caudwell finished by the wayside after a shunt. His bad luck provided a ray of hope for Judge who inherited the fourth spot in the championship, outside the trophies.
Behind the top five, drivers such as Zoltan Csabai, Scott Lawrence and Nigel Board all had moments where they looked like true contenders and as they develop into Roadsport drivers, maybe their time will come…