“When I received an e-mail confirming I was in the final of the PistonHeads Competition, I couldn't believe it. I then read the email further to which it stated that the final was to be located at the Caterham Formula 1 HQ. Along with eight others, I’d be driving the Caterham Formula 1 simulator and would also be tested during the day on a number of different exercises. I arrived on the day to meet eight guys who were all nice chaps, and during the day we all had a good laugh together. My time then came to drive in the simulator. Imagine how I felt. I was just about to sit in a million-pound simulator which, until then, had been the strict reserve of F1 or GP2 drivers, or simulator engineers.
“We were given five laps to familiarise ourselves with how the car operated and then needed to deliver five timed laps. It was so much fun. The feel of the cockpit moving underneath you and the ultra-realistic feel of driving was brilliant. Before I knew it, my time was up. I was reasonably happy with how I performed. The day progressed with an interview and then a challenging quiz.
“Then came the moment of truth: Paul from PistonHeads announced the winner. At first I thought to myself: ‘did he really just say my name? Am I dreaming?’ I was completely taken aback; overwhelmed with winning. It had been a dream of mine for such a long time to take the step up from karting to full circuit racing and now these dreams were going to come true. Having the final at Caterham's F1 HQ, driving the F1 simulator and the factory tour were in themselves a big enough prize for me – let alone winning the chance to be in the Caterham Academy for 2013!”
“The next challenge was to obtain my race license. I arrived early at a foggy Castle Combe to undertake a day of tests to attempt to pass my ARDS test along with 25 other Caterham Academy drivers. First off was the no-pressure activity, which was to drive a BMW around the skid pan – utterly addictive.
“Part two of the day was more serious. It consisted of driving an ARDS instructor around the race circuit whilst being marked on our driving ability, along with a medical, and to finish, a written exam. I opted to go first. Out on the track, he instructor explained where the racing line was and how to approach the corners; he then went quiet for two laps and let me put into practice what he had explained. At the end of the second lap he said “Well done – you’ve passed the driving test.”
“I was over the moon, and 33 per cent closer to getting my race license. I passed the medical with flying colours and then came potentially the most difficult part – the written exam. The pressure was on, because in the 15 minutes you’re given, you’re only allowed to get 2 or 3 answers incorrect before it's an automatic fail. Thankfully my revision had paid off and I passed. The whole day was brilliant from start to finish – if my first two days are anything to go by, this year is going to be amazing.”
“With the difficult part out of the way, the day finally came to collect my 2013 Caterham Academy car from the factory in Dartford. Once the guys from Caterham had explained how to set up the suspension of our Academy cars, then came the moment I had been waiting for: Jennifer from Caterham Cars took me to my race car.
“It looks ideal! The striking green and black colour scheme really stands out and will make spotting me on track so much easier. I was personally walked around the car by a Caterham technician who explained what everything was and how everything operated. I was then handed the keys and told I could go for my first drive. I pressed the start button; the engine fired in to action, and I made my way back home to Tunbridge Wells. It was a journey that I didn't ever want to end. The car is perfect – it sounds awesome, and drives even better. I really can't wait to see what it’s like on a racing circuit!
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people who have made my dreams a reality. Thanks to PistonHeads, Caterham and Autosport for providing me with this once in a lifetime opportunity; thanks also to Adrian Flux for kindly providing me road insurance for the year, and of course, to Jennifer Grace and Paul Garlick for all their help and support so far.”