SILVERSTONE JULY 3/4 PREVIEW – CATERHAM ACADEMY CHAMPIONSHIPS
If there’s one circuit that would stick in the minds of any Caterham Academy Championship driver to race on in their first ever season of competition, the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit would certainly be a leading candidate.
Now in a rare and incredible opportunity, both the Green and White Groups will head onto the same circuit that Formula 1 will visit in a few weeks’ time for their fourth ever circuit race. This will also be a unique occasion as for the first time outside of graduation into the Roadsport ranks, both groups will race against each other on track at the same time, meaning it will be the only chance to see how the top drivers from each group stack up against each other before they meet again at the end-of-season non-championship Autumn Trophy race.
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.
Last time out at Knockhill certainly provided some interesting insights into who will be the prime championship contenders in each group, with mixed fortunes for many drivers in both. The Green Group certainly saw the lion’s share of the front running drivers scrapping it out on track for the win as Mallory Park winner Geoff Newman claimed one race win, while young charger Freddie Chiddicks picked up the other. That’s not to say that either of these races were drama free, though.
Keeping them both company were Paul Woodman, Ian Harris, Chris Fraser and Marc Jones, a quartet of drivers that were never far away from each other at any given time. Jones picked up two podiums for his troubles, while the other three finished just outside the rostrum in Race 1 before an incident involving all three and Newman put paid to any points in the second. Newman’s DNF was of his own making after two spins, the first attempting to repass Chiddicks for the lead and then a couple of laps later lapping a backmarker. It means Newman sits 4th in points while Harris, Woodman and Fraser occupy 8th to 10th respectively, leaving all four with work to do to regain the lost ground. As for Chiddicks, he has a four point advantage over Jones with James Cook a more distant 3rd some ten points back having not yet finished higher than 4th but proving that consistency pays off in more ways than one. Mark Kendle, Robert Demain and Mark Williams will also be hoping to maintain their positions within the top 10 after this weekend.
Over in the White Group, it turned out to be a weekend long duel between William James and Harry George, the pair constantly swapping places and battling back and forth in both races. Incredibly, both encounters ended with a typical side by side photo finish, something which is common in Caterham racing circles, but there was only a thousandth of a second’s difference (0.127 in Race 1 and 0.128 in Race 2) between the two winning margins as both James and George took a victory each. This puts them five points apart heading to Silverstone with James leading George and both set to continue this rivalry all weekend.
Charlie Lower and Gareth Lucas are now giving chase in 3rd and 4th places respectively, two more drivers that also know what it’s like to stand on the podium in just the first few races of their careers. Lower took the honour of winning the Curborough sprint and so far has only been able to pick up a 2nd place at Mallory Park, while Lucas managed to find his groove in Scotland by claiming two 3rd places and at times kept pace with James and George at Knockhill, so maybe Silverstone will be a chance for him to make a further step up and challenge for victory. Giles Perry currently rounds off the top 5 having proven himself already to be a regular top 5 driver in the races, as he sits just a couple of points back from Lucas. The entirety of the first five drivers in the standings are covered by 19 points after the first three weekends and there’s a real chance that it could close up even further.
All in all, this will be a weekend to remember for all of this year’s Caterham Academy racers, as they will always remember it as the meeting they got the chance to race on the same circuit that their heroes have succeeded on!