Towards the end of last year we offered PHers the chance to win a season of racing in the Caterham Academy series thanks to our friends at the Autosport International Show and Caterham Cars. Many of you entered, and we thank you for that, but we had to whittle the entrants down to just 10 finalists who would then be put through their paces at the Caterham F1 facility in Oxfordshire before we decided on our overall winner.
Virtual laps on F1 simulator part of the process
A collection of rather nervous looking finalists arrived at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, ready for a full day of activities knowing that every move they made during the day would be scrutinised and judged. Not only would they be tested on their driving skills they would also be assessed on their interview techniques, motorsport knowledge, general attitude and their apparent hunger to be our champion. Winning wasn’t going to be easy, especially when a part of the test was driving 12 laps of the Barcelona GP circuit under the watchful eye of the Caterham F1 team.
The simulator is an awesome bit of kit powered by Dell’s Alienware hardware (for the techies amongst you) sitting atop a bespoke seven-post rig. It’s known as a ‘driver in the loop’ simulator, which allows Caterham to accurately model car behaviour in a virtual environment and use it with real-world input from the driver. Basically, it’s exactly the same as sitting in the real thing. If our winners can handle this, there is a good chance they can cope with an academy car!
Back to the classroom for our 10 finalists
Judging was a tricky process as posting the fastest lap time wasn’t a sure fire way of winning and our overall champion needed to show a good level of competence in all areas. When on the simulator we were looking for sympathy towards the car, steady improvement and the ability to understand where mistakes were being made and correcting the issue on the next lap. When under interview conditions we needed to see the ability to convey excitement and emotion and when waiting their turn in the simulator we needed to see them use the time wisely by asking questions and swotting up for the motorsport quiz ahead. This was not a day to sit with your feet up drinking tea looking bored.
As the day progressed more and more of the winners posted lap times in the simulator and went to spend time with the green Caterham one of them would end up spending a year with. The prize not only included a spot within the Academy series it also allowed the winner full use of the Caterham Academy Car for 12 months to use on the road car between races, with a year's worth of road insurance provided by Adrian Flux Insurance. The stakes were high as were the emotions of many of the competitors as the day progressed.
A year on road and track in this was the prize
In the end our winner was chosen for his smooth fast laps (second overall) which were gained after an average start behind the wheel but he applied corrections to his mistakes without prompting to gain control and up the pace. In addition to being a good driver he had passion in spades having followed motorsport his entire life and spending what available cash he had on either watching racing or going to his local karting facility (much to the annoyance of his girlfriend we hear!) as well as performing amazingly well under interview with compelling and interesting responses to our quick fire questioning. His dedication to racing, a sheer desire to compete and the fact that he was a nice chap to chat to made him the natural choice.
The PH racer for the 2013 Autosport International Caterham Academy is 26-year-old Dan Livingstone from Tunbridge Wells. Next Wednesday he will take his ARDS test before collecting the PH Caterham and starting his racing career in a few weeks time. You can follow his progress on these very pages as Dan will be filing race reports (and a PH Carpool) throughout the year.
Winner Dan Livingstone with his race car
Well done to Dan from all of us at PH HQ and Autosport International, you are a worthy winner and we wish you all the best with the racing.
Thanks also to our other finalists who performed amazingly well, to Caterham for their dedication to the competition and generous prize, to Performance PR for all the assistance in making this happen and finally to Adrian Flux for insuring Dan on the road.