Which Caterham Series?

Which Caterham Series?

Author
Discussion

chappj

Original Poster:

123 posts

101 months

Sunday 11th October
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I’m seriously considering starting racing next year in a caterham and looking for some advice on which spec / series to enter. I dabbled with 100cc carts for a season many years ago and raced motorcycles at club level for a few years. All of this was 20yrs ago... I had a road caterham 7-8 yrs ago and did a few track days, but would consider myself rusty...

I’d quite like to build a Caterham as my 11 yr old daughter is crazy about cars at the moment and so I think it would be fun to do this together, however not essential if the consensus is to buy used for better value.

Which series(s) should I consider? Would the official Caterham Acadamy be the best route?

Also, I’d be storing the car at home and would rather not take up loads of room with a trailer, so would prefer to store the car on the trailer in a single garage. Any recommendations on make/model?

Nampahc Niloc

476 posts

36 months

Sunday 11th October
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I started with the Caterham Academy and would highly recommend them. It is a great group and they hold your hand through everything. Everyone being a novice means that you’re not thrown too much in the deep end. However your karting experience might mean you need to start in Roadsport (the next level). Caterham will be able to advise.

One of the main reasons I went for the Caterham Academy was the opportunity to build the car myself, but with good level of support. I wanted to really understand the car.

It is important to note that Caterham’s own championships are far from the most affordable way to go racing, and there are far cheaper options, but you could always do the Academy (which will give the opportunity to self build) then carry on racing elsewhere.

Caterham Motorsport are racing at Donington next weekend and Snetterton at the end of the month so worth going along to see it in person. Sadly the paddocks are closed to spectators at the moment, but if you contact your nearest dealer and mention you’re considering it they might be able to sort you out.

Nampahc Niloc

476 posts

36 months

Sunday 11th October
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Also worth noting, as you probably already know, that Caterham’s hold they’re values really well.

Matt W

133 posts

196 months

Monday 12th October
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The Academy is a great way into racing and if building your own brand new race car is part of the attraction then go for it. As I'm sure you know, the basic cost is £30k for a car and your first season.

Personally, that was beyond my budget so I bought an ex-academy car for £7.5k in 2012 and have raced on and off with the Caterham Graduates ever since. I currently race a Sigmax (Caterham Supersport spec) car that I bought for £12k last winter. Much cheaper than buying a brand new Academy car!

The Graduates (CGRC) is run by its members to provide fun, inclusive, respectful, safe and good value racing. The club is full of incredibly friendly people and the focus is on having fun above all else. The club has a driving standards team made up of a group of experienced drivers and will not tolerate overly aggressive or unsafe driving.

I've just sent you a PM with my phone number on it if you want to have a chat.

andy97

3,995 posts

180 months

Monday 12th October
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Caterhams are just awesome to race and at the “sensible power levels” quite cheap (relatively) to race.
Depreciation is low, tyre and brake wear is low and even race and towing fuel is low, all due to the low weight, of course.
The Caterham Graduates series is popular but for me it was out as, mostly, the race meetings take place over a full weekend (qualy and race one on Sat, race two and three on Sun) and that meant it wasn’t family friendly and would result in a veto from the “team manager.“
I am a big fan of the CSCC and have raced with them in various series for years. They are a well run club, good value for money, competitor/ member focused and have excellent driving standards. For Caterhams ( and similar 7esque type cars such as Westfields or MK Indy) CSCC run the “Magnificent 7” series with about 8 different classes depending on power output. The 30 min qualifying and 40 min (pit stop) races are all on one day meaning you get plenty of track time for your money and are only away one day (and night). As they are pit stop races there is also the option of sharing the car (and costs) with someone. This year there has also been the option of a second race on the same day.
CSCC also go to Spa every year.
As mentioned, Magnificent 7s is not exclusively for Caterhams, although probably the majority are, and one of the advantages of the Caterham is that it can race in several different series. If it was me, and depending on budget, I would look to buy and existing Caterham 310 and race it in a mix of Graduates and CSCC races as my time, budget and circuit calendar allowed until I settled on the series I preferred.
Caterham 310s are also eligible for the “Toyo 7 series” run by McMillan Motorsport at various circuits in the U.K. and Europe, but I know very little else about it.
Please feel free to pm me if you wish to discuss CSCC Magnificent 7s and I will put you in touch with the series rep and/ or help out where I can.

andya7

140 posts

174 months

Tuesday 13th October
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Some answers...

I'd quite like to build a Caterham
First answer, buy a new kit... second answer, buy a 2nd hand car, debuild and rebuild (depends on your sums and finances)

Would the Academy be the best route
The 'package' is £30k, however add on delivery, paint, build, black pack, stipes, doors, spare wheels, etc. then you are looking at ~£36k (obviously you can 'save' the build of £2400 if you build yourself. Elements such as, helmet, suit, VBox, etc. are common to whatever you do (unless you get a VBox with/in a second hand car)

Trailer storage
There is/was a trailer that had a folding hitch, although I don't know if they are still available, but it comes down to how big (or small) your garage is smile

Which series should I consider, there are far more questions/answers and I know that this will be a lengthy post, however the available options;

Caterham Motorsport
Academy - packaged in and hand holding to get you into motorsport, has worked very well for many years and no reason why it won't do so for time to come.... it works. However, it does come at a 'premium' (not an over charged premium, but costs can be higher than other options). You will need to check the criteria for 'never previously held a race licence', as I am not sure if the karting does or doesn't affect it

Roadsport/270R/310R - continuation of the Academy car with upgrades along the way, it is possible to 'step in' subject to space on grids as priority is given to previous years moving up the ladder (as would be expected)

UK/420R Championship - you cannot upgrade your Academy/Roadsport/270R/310R car to this spec, so it is a new kit (~£50k) or secondhand route. Numbers are low for 2020, sub 10 competitors on each grid... Covid might be affecting numbers but isn't so on other grids available.

All of the above are manufacturer supported, hospitality, parts, mechanical support packages available, etc. and run as Championships. This year all the classes have race(d) at Cadwell, Thruxton, Brands Indy, Donington and Snetterton, plus in 'normal' years an overseas EU Championship round, this year should have been Zandvoort but unfortunately COVID put a stop on that.

CSCC (Mag 7's)
Well organised Club and offers a range of Caterham classes and with varying budgets (upper end of the grid tends to reflect the 'cost of winning'). Ability has a range and by way of example, a 420R car finishing 3rd in class in Mag 7's, finished 26th in the 7 Race Series in the same class of car. With a range of classes their is naturally less opportunity for car to car contact found in 'same spec' grids, but equally whilst some drivers are happy with potentially 'lonely' races, others miss the competitiveness of larger class grids, it is down to each driver. Not a Championship but they do tend to do an overseas event, this year it should have been Le Mans (this coming weekend) at the same meeting at the 7 Race Series.

Caterham Graduates
Has been in existence for over 20 years and formed from the original Caterham Scholarship (now Academy) in 1997, back in those days there was no further Caterham backed racing beyond the initial year, thus the Graduates were formed (although it was the 7'97 Club originally). Provides Club racing with Championship Classes, hospitality, etc. This year, due to COVID, the championship status was dropped, along with numbers, and so grids have been mixed to suit available track time and entry numbers.

Tends to favour the more 'clubby' UK circuits, however there is usually a 'higher profile' circuit each year, including an overseas Championship round. Classes for the equivalent 270R/310R (but not called that) and older Sigmax (Supersport spec cars). Ultimately it is 'run by members for members', i.e. non-commercial, but that requires all members to have some time/effort input... without that input then perhaps the 'board get bored' of coordinating the Club and is has to gear towards a more commercial side?

I raced in the Graduates for three seasons... albeit, a long time ago smile

7 Race Series
(to be open about my posting - it is owned/managed by me)
Initially operated under another name and managed through McMillan Motorsport, originally coordinating events in Portugal; Estoril, Porto, Vila Real and Portimao, however in the past four years it has been the 7 Race Series (separate company and no common directors). Previously it has operated as a 'series' of events, however this year was its first Championship, offering classes to the 420R and 1600's (the latter generally being 310R and Supersport/Sigmax spec).

2020 events were affected by COVID however numbers have been very good, last weekend at Brands Hatch GP was a full grid of 46 cars (and two reserves), with 23 cars in each of the two classes. 2021 provisional calendar already out;

Championship Rounds - Donington/Brands GP/Snetterton/Silverstone GP/Mondello
Invitation Events - Paul Ricard, Catalunya, Valencia, Jerez, Portimao and Estoril

Transport packages coordinated between teams/drivers to offer all drivers a competitive transport rate... such that a trip taking in Barcelona, Valencia, Jerez, Portimao and Estoril is likely to be £2000. Drivers fly in/out and meet up with their cars... sounds a bit more glamorous on a Monday to talk about racing at Catalunya and how you flew in to the meeting, than to discuss driving to Pembrey? (and it is probably quicker to get to Barcelona).

Making a weekend of it also means that drivers tend to socialise more together and put a name/face to a car, which does help to reduce contact on track... plus there is always the opportunity for a beer in the evening, good food and family, guest, holiday, weekend break, etc.

Which is best
In reality, that is down to what each driver wants and how much budget they have. However, budget covers many areas...

Race Car
New Academy or second hand... if new is £36k (including your first years entry fees... but lets say that is £3k) then it is £33k, however Caterham currently have a 2020 car for sale at £24k, so a 'saving' of £9k and, bearing in mind that is Caterham selling there are usually better rates buying elsewhere and privately... bear in mind that the warranty on a race car from Caterham is probably the same as much as a private purchase...

However, it is equally feasible to find a car that has already been upgraded to 270R/310R spec or an older Supersport (equivalent to the 310R in terms of performance but older), looking at the Graduates website it is possible to find a 310R at £18-20k and a Sigmax at £12.5-£14.5. So, depending on a drivers budget you can pick/choose as you wish... but the difference in cost might mean more budget to go racing...

Entry Fees
These are determined by circuit costs and it is hopefully shouldn't be a surprise that Brands Hatch GP is more expensive to race on than Brands Hatch Indy. So, whilst Caterham, CSCC, Graduates tend to favour the lower priced circuits (thus a lower average entry) the 7 Race Series tries to focus on the high profile UK circuits, which naturally gives a higher average.

However, entry fees also depend on how much track time you have... so, a 15mins qualifying and 2 x 20mins races might be £395 (thus £8.77/min) at a lower priced circuit, however the 7 Race Series at Brands Hatch at the weekend was £625 for 15mins qualifying a 20mins race and a 40mins race (thus £8.33/min).

The reality is that the headline figure might be attractive but it might not be the 'cheapest', however to any new driver all circuits are amazing... but to someone that has raced at the 'usual' circuits for 5 years they don't want to go to Brands Indy when someone else is offering Brands Hatch GP.

Other Stuff...
Drivers can be run by teams in all, save for Caterham Academy & Roadsport, however this is mainly for convenience as there isn't a vast amount that you can adjust on a Caterham (save for the far higher spec Mag 7's). Equally, drivers can run themselves and not necessarily be at a disadvantage, unless they are using slick/wets (as Mag 7's) as this really does mean team support and associated costs.

You aren't going to make a career out of racing a Caterham (ok, some have, but 99% haven't) so it is a hobby and has to be fun... so, where do you want your fun?

For me, I look at the drivers who finish last... and ask myself what do I need to do to make them keep turning up. So far it has been a mix of excellent circuits in the UK and Europe, a good social side with drivers, making guests/partners/etc. all feel welcome and, perhaps more importantly, listening to the drivers and doing what they want... not what I think they want.

Apologies it is a long one, but hopefully I have given a balanced response... if I haven't then please shout up, happy to be corrected smile

Dibba

62 posts

175 months

Wednesday 14th October
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Andya7 - my compliments and thanks for taking the time to add such an informative and comprehensive reply.

[The only one extremely minor correction for complete clarity is that the Mag 7's type cars can only run slicks / wets in events like MSVR Allcomers events, like at Brands GP at the weekend. Mag 7's itself is list 1a. 1b or 1c tyres only].

I have raced various Caterhams for many years, predominantly in Mag 7's and your summary is spot on in my eyes and experience.

In terms of best value for money, closeness / thrill of racing, and a stunning calendar delivered by an organiser whom, from taking to various drivers in the series at several events now, plainly DOES listen to wishes of the drivers and does GENUINELY take the into consideration their views then the 7 Race Series really cannot be beaten and is head and shoulders above several others.

I haven't raced at all this year, just been a spanner monkey for friends in Mag 7's, but when I do get back into a Caterham to race then the 7 Race Series is almost certainly where I will be putting my money. Hence my thanks for such a refreshing and genuine approach to club racing and delivering such a high class service.

Steve

chappj

Original Poster:

123 posts

101 months

Wednesday 14th October
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Thank you so much for the informative replies. Lots of really useful info in here. Will digest and keep you posted on progress. It’s great to hear there are so many different series to race a Caterham as I’m more interest in the circuits than championship standing.

andya7

140 posts

174 months

Thursday 15th October
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I genuinely have no idea who Dibba is, but I can't pass such a glowing response without offering a beer when I do meet him... at which point he tells me that we were chatting at Brands last weekend eeksmile

(comments noted on the slicks... thumbup)

I try to remain impartial and am a believer that everyone should be able to choose what suits their needs and the only way to do that it is to give them the information and let them decide...

chappj

Original Poster:

123 posts

101 months

Saturday 17th October
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Confirmed today with Caterham that I’m not eligible for the Academy due to my (very limited) Karting 20yrs who. I’m more concerned that they also said I may struggle to get a slot in Roadsport as those slots are usually taken by people moving up from the Academy.

More research into the other series now underway.

andy97

3,995 posts

180 months

Sunday 18th October
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chappj said:
Confirmed today with Caterham that I’m not eligible for the Academy due to my (very limited) Karting 20yrs who. I’m more concerned that they also said I may struggle to get a slot in Roadsport as those slots are usually taken by people moving up from the Academy.

More research into the other series now underway.
As I said earlier, just buy a car that is eligible for Grads, 7 series and Mag7s and try each series depending on calendar and location.
You may need a couple of sets of wheels and tyres but worth it.

Lemoncurd

162 posts

175 months

Monday 19th October
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I did the 2018 Academy/2019 Roadsport and would agree with Andy's last post. I would also add that with the latest announcement that the 7 race series is looking to create a 270R class, my recommendation would be to go for one of those.

My car is currently in 270R spec and I would say it gives the right balance of introduction vs. access to races. It is eligible for the Grads 135, Caterham 270R and 7RS as well as the Mag 7s and is the point when cars start to get racey with widetrack, the loss of screen/lights etc. The academy was great as an introduction, but given you aren't eligible for it, I wouldn't bother with the artificial road limitations that it puts on the Academy/Roadsport specs. The 310R has yet more power, an LSD meaning exits from corners are less nuanced and all the other drivers will have typically had 1 years more experience.

Academy cars can attract a bit of a premium as people are always looking for 'practice' cars before they start the championship. You can upgrade fairly easily from an ex roadsport car, but it will be 1-2k for the chip and widetrack conversion.

In terms of series, I have raced in both Caterham and Grads races and would echo most of the sentiments above. The Grads might be slightly tamer for your first few races though as the pace is a bit more varied. Most of the Caterham grid have been at it for 2 years by that point (~20 races) and it is very competetive. From mid pack upwards you won't find many prisoners being taken. I haven't tried the 7RS yet as my car would have been underpowered before now, but have heard plenty of good things from those who have.

For trailers, the Brian James minno range will fit (tightly) through a single garage door, so you can store the car on the trailer along with tyres on the rack. I did this for my Academy year and it worked well. I think PRG have a similar compact model.