Chris did the Academy in 2004 and followed it up with a couple of seasons in Roadsports, the next Caterham category up. Now he has the dubious pleasure of testing competitors' 'samples' as Caterham's medical chap for the series.
"I kept in touch with the Caterham guys after I finished racing, and when they needed a doctor to help out I was the first to put my hand up. The whole series really is brilliant fun and it's good even to be involved in a non-competitive way."
Since Castle Combe has to process all 29 entrants for Grid Two of this year's Academy (Grid One has another 28 entrants), the group is split into two parts, with half doing the practical and written tests in the morning, while the other half go and lark about on a skid pan, then get a scrutineering briefing from Nick Potter of Caterham Midlands.
Now, a decade-old Focus might seem like an odd car in which to take an ARDS test - especially if you're racing a light rear-drive roadster like a Caterham - but, as our instructors take us round Combe showing us the lines, the choice of car begins to make sense.
The circuit today is damp and greasy and, even at relatively low speeds, the ridiculously short run-offs loom large in your mind. In that context a forgiving front-wheel drive car seems eminently sensible. Besides, as I find out when I get behind the wheel, the old Focus is still a surprisingly pleasant thing to drive on a circuit, with a slick gearchange and faithful steering.
I manage to get round with nothing more dramatic than a couple of locked inside front wheels (the racing school disables the ABS deliberately), leaving only the written test between me and a shiny new racing licence. This takes 15 minutes and is largely a multiple choice affair. If I told you precisely what the questions were I'm informed that the MSA would hunt me down, but suffice to say that it's not too hard - learn what all the flags mean, employ a spot of common sense and a pass should come easily. A PhD thesis it is not.
These last two activities aren't actually part of the ARDS test, but they are typical of the Caterham Academy - just giving you that extra bit of value for money. I come away from the day a little wiser and a little more qualified. And very, very eager to get out on track in my little Seven...