Caterham Academy 2013: battle commences


Round one of the Pistonheads Caterham Academy had finally arrived, and to say I was excited was an understatement. I made the 260-mile drive from Tunbridge Wells the night before to ensure I was fresh for the day ahead. I chose to drive the Caterham to Aintree rather than using a trailer. Some people thought I was mad sitting in a Caterham for five hours but I was surprisingly comfortable and enjoyed the journey. The Caterham gets a lot of attention on the road and I frequently saw people taking pictures of the car as they drove past me on the motorway. Also I won't have this Caterham forever so I'm definitely going to make the most of it.

Dan lines up on the startline at Aintree
Dan lines up on the startline at Aintree
Aintree race circuit has a huge history and is most remembered for staging five British Grand Prix. Stirling Moss scored his first World Championship Grand Prix victory in the 1955 event at Aintree. Knowing I would be driving at the same circuit as a legend like Stirling Moss was really cool.

Our Academy Sprint at Aintree was over three corners. The straight off the start line is very short and leads into a left. A longer straight leads into the right at Village. Following that the next corner is Beecher's. This is a fast right-hander which then leads you onto the Railway Straight and over the finish line.

The schedule was two practice runs and then three timed runs, fastest counts. I was really excited to start my first ever event. To think five months ago I was planning another year of karting and now I was sitting on the starting line at Aintree.

My first practice runs went well, and I was fourth fastest with a 54.39sec. The pressure was now on. I pushed hard on my first run and managed a 53.87. I was told a 54-second lap is considered really quick so to be in the 53s made me very happy and put me fourth fastest in my group. I made a slight mistake in my next run which cost me a couple tenths and my time was 54.29. I managed to almost match my fastest time in my third run with a lap time of 53.90. I finished my third timed run feeling like there was more time left in me but I wouldn't be able to find out because the days driving had come to an end.

Extra kudos for driving the car to the event
Extra kudos for driving the car to the event
To my surprise I was then informed there would be a fourth timed run added on to the schedule. I had mixed feelings about this. Firstly because I had just refuelled the car for the drive home but secondly knowing this could be my chance to improve my time. I decided to give it my all and afterwards felt like I had put together my best lap of the day in terms of corner entry, exit and speed. I looked at the timing board and unfortunately I posted a slower time of 54.03sec. I think the extra weight in fuel had made a difference as I felt like the lap was hooked up.

The results were announced and I finished fifth overall. I was extremely happy with my performance as I had set myself a personal target to get in to the top 10 for my first ever event.

Snetterton sprint
Round two of the Championship seemed to take ages to come round, maybe because I was so excited to get back out in the car again. I've always liked the look of Snetterton so was excited for the day. This was our second sprint out of three in the Caterham Academy.

Our man in action at the Snetterton sprint
Our man in action at the Snetterton sprint
The morning began with a track walk which is always useful as you can start to understand the track. The sprint around Snetterton is one and a half laps around the 100 circuit, which includes 10 corners. It had been raining the night before so the track was damp in places which would create a tricky first lap for all of us. The schedule for the day was a bit more pressured than Aintree with only two practice and two timed runs for the day. This meant I needed to learn the circuit quickly as I had never been to Snetterton before. The top four from Aintree and some other Academy guys had already attended track days at Snetterton so the day could have the possibility of turning tricky for me.

Following scrutineering the first practice run went well but the track was extremely slippery in places. It was really good fun driving in these conditions and made it a challenge to produce a good lap. I did a 118.1sec which put me third fastest. I used the next practice run to learn the circuit more and prepare myself for my first timed run. I set a lap time of 110.89sec. The track was drying out and the lap times were getting quicker.

First timed run and it was time to try and get a banker time in. I was still learning the track at this point and made a couple of small mistakes but apart from that it was an OK lap. This meant I set a lap time of 107.77 which put me fourth. Next up was my second and final timed run of the day. I improved further and set a lap time of 106.83. I was reasonably happy with my lap but still didn't feel 100 per cent. I definitely needed more time to learn the circuit. I believe with a bit of previous track time round Snetterton I could of produced a better lap time.

I finished seventh. It was a good solid result seeing the circumstances and I can take positives from that. Good amount of points and am currently fifth in the Championship.

I really can't wait for the first race of the season which is at Donington Park in July. I can't begin to imagine what it will be like with 28 Academy racers on the grid waiting for the lights to go out. Exciting times ahead.

Round three is June 15 at Blyton Circuit.

And here's some onboard from Aintree.



Previous Updates:
Practice makes perfect
The season begins - Dan collects the keys to his new car
The lucky winner of our 2013 Caterham Academy drive is announced

   
   

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Comments (4) Join the discussion on the forum

  • dirtbiker 10 Jun 2013

    Car looks great and very good write up - cheers!

  • CaterhamDan7 10 Jun 2013

    dirtbiker said:
    Car looks great and very good write up - cheers!
    Thanks :-)

  • Mucus72 10 Jun 2013

    Donington is 20 mins from my house and its great in a 7. I own a 150 bhp k series 7 and had a great track day there lat November. Can we come and watch you Dan, are the academy events for general admission spectators too?

    Edited by Mucus72 on Monday 10th June 23:30

  • CaterhamDan7 11 Jun 2013

    Mucus72 said:
    Donington is 20 mins from my house and its great in a 7. I own a 150 bhp k series 7 and had a great track day there lat November. Can we come and watch you Dan, are the academy events for general admission spectators too?

    Edited by Mucus72 on Monday 10th June 23:30
    Hi,
    Living so close to Donington must be awesome.
    Yes anyone can come and watch. I'm not sure how much the gate prices are.
    We will be at Donington on the 13th & 14th July.

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