Caterham Academy 2013: Practice makes perfect

Silverstone - Handling Day
My first Academy day since collecting the Caterham arrived, and I made my way to Silverstone. The weather was horrendous on the journey and hadn’t improved by the time we arrived.

Practise starts were plenty of fun, though
Practise starts were plenty of fun, though
First up, race start practice. This was really useful because it’s not often that you get to practise these; nevertheless, they are very important and can cost or save you a lot of time. The weather conditions made this a lot of fun as it was very slippery, and judging the power-to-grip ratio was tricky.

The rest of the day included a number of different slalom courses which had been marked out by cones. We were given three practice runs then had an added bit of pressure by being timed against the clock. This added a great bit of competition to the day. My slalom runs went well and I overheard the Caterham instructor mention that a couple of them were quick – nice to know you’re getting on OK!

At the start of the day Jennifer Grace, the championship coordinator, mentioned that a Super Slalom course would be set out and there would be trophies to the top three places. The course combined the two from the previous activities, and required excellent car control. We were allowed one practice run, and then one timed run.

Super Slalom was demanding!
Super Slalom was demanding!
My practice run went well and, luckily, I didn’t make any mistakes. I then sat at the start line awaiting the countdown. The adrenaline started built and when the instructor shouted “Go!” I put my earlier race starts into practice and got a good get-away. My only error of the day then happened; changing from first to second took longer than it should. This ultimately cost me a little bit of time, but I then pushed as hard as I could and drove flat out, with no further dramas.

Once everyone had finished their timed runs, Jennifer announced the results. From last place to 11th, my name wasn’t mentioned; already, I was pleased that I had made the top 10. In actual fact, I finished fifth overall and was four-tenths off second place. My goal had been to get into the top 10, so I was really chuffed with fifth place!

Castle Combe - Exclusive Test Day
The exclusive Caterham Academy Test Day took place at Castle Combe, a track we’d all visited before when we completed our ARDS race licence test, so we all had some experience.

When we attended the safety briefing, we were informed that the day would be run as a test day rather than a track day – meaning we could overtake anywhere we wanted. We were split into groups and I was allocated 15 minutes of track time every hour.

Dan leads the pack out at Castle Combe
Dan leads the pack out at Castle Combe
The circuit was damp on the first run, so I decided to use it as sighting. But by the time my next session came round the track was dry, so I could really start to build my speed and push more. With the race setup the Caterham handles incredibly well; you can carry so much speed into and through corners. If you haven't had a chance to drive a Caterham at speed then you need to book yourself in for a driving experience.

As the day went on there were plenty of cars spinning on the final corner. This one’s extremely important to get right because it can cost you a lot of time as you lead down the long run to Avon Rise, the first corner, which is where I had my one and only spin of the day.

Lining up for a pass (already!)
Lining up for a pass (already!)
It happened at Avon Rise which, according to the safety briefing, is the most crashed corner in the country. The instructors advised us to take a confidence lift or brake before it, but each lap I was building such speed that I believed it could be taken almost flat. I successfully managed this for a few laps but then left it a little bit too late on the brakes on one lap, and the back end of the car lost grip. I managed to keep the car on the track and avoid entering the gravel, and actually quite enjoyed my first spin – mainly because I didn't damage the car.

During the last two sessions of the day I then had some great battles, with plenty of late braking and defensive driving. The test day was a success and I left the circuit feeling like I’d taken another step toward becoming competitive this year.

The next event for me is Round One of the Championship which will be at Aintree Race Circuit in Liverpool. I can't wait!

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

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (12) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Salgar 23 Apr 2013

    Amazing, glad you're enjoying it!

  • lord summerisle 23 Apr 2013

    well, i'll see you at aintree...

    but if i'm waving a red flag - remember i'm not saying 'hi' wink

  • garypotter 23 Apr 2013

    Still green with envy!!!

    Good luck you seem to have settled into the car well and keep us up to date with your results.

  • Snifflytooth 23 Apr 2013

    Hey nice one.
    I did the very first 'Scholarship' as it was called way back then in '95
    Two Auto tests, two sprints, two hill climbs and two races. The auto tests were just soooo embarasing in a Caterham with the handbrake in the passenger footwell - that NO ONE got to work for more than one handbrake turn - in a car with no LSD! I think everyone complained about them, so it was never used again in the Championship since = lucky you

    Our races were at Mallory and Cadwell. I can't remember who did our 'star' briefing, a Touring Car driver of the time, all he said was 'if you don't crash here, you will at Cadwell' literally - what a tool.

    Enjoy it mate, it is so addictive, be warned! I raced my 7 until the end of the 1999 season, then I ended up doing two 24hr races at the Nurburgring, in a 7. 2000 and 2001..... Now that is an experience I'll never forget, both times!


    Edited by Snifflytooth on Tuesday 23 April 21:30

  • Alex Gurr 23 Apr 2013

    Good luck Dan....I did it last year and it just keeps getting better and better. The sprints are fantastic, but just wait till you get to the races!

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